Fruits of the school greenhouse outgrow flowers and vegetables

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For students at Henry County High School, Greenhouse Technology I is a pathway to earning industry certification in plant science. Senior Dillon Edens completed the class for certification but also the opportunity to support the class as a peer tutor and work in the school’s greenhouse.

“I plan to go into landscape design,” Edens said.

Farming teacher and FFA advisor Lindsey Davie is opening the greenhouse to students in the class for its value as a supervised farming experience.

“They’re still working on that,” Davie said of the current students. “We do classrooms and train here (in the greenhouse) too.”

The students’ work in the greenhouse pays off in several ways.

You will receive the curriculum training in greenhouse engineering, but also gain experience in agricultural sales and customer service when the greenhouse is open to the public and offers for sale its variety of flowers such as impatiens, marigolds, geraniums, zenias and cosmos plants, among others, a wide variety of tomato plants, succulents and peppers.

Davie said the class target for annual greenhouse sales is $8,000. For the first two Friday and Saturday weekends this year leading up to Mother’s Day, the greenhouse generated $6,500 in sales.

“Students work on Fridays, and so far I’ve had student work on Saturdays,” Davie said.

One of this year’s bestsellers is the Mosquito plant, which is transplanted into the greenhouse from a parent plant and propagated by its cuttings.

“They get really big and fast,” Davie said of the mosquito-repelling plant.

Depending on how much was sold last week, the greenhouse may or may not be open this Friday and Saturday. But when the greenhouse is open, among the other offerings might be a few $10 pots of wavy petunias or $2 four-packs of Roma tomato plants.

For Davie, 2022 has brought a welcome return to normalcy for the greenhouse, both for curriculum purposes and horticultural sales.

In 2020, students were barred from entering the greenhouse over COVID fears, which meant Davie did the work: “I transplanted every single plant myself.”

Despite the restrictions, the greenhouse continued to grow under Davie’s watchful thumb. Sales were still being made, but in 2021 sales went online via a Google form she posted to Facebook.

Davie has taught in Henry County for 14 years. During her tenure, the greenhouse experience continues to evolve into more than an educational tool and seasonal selling point: it’s a fixture.

“Our community has been very supportive,” said Davie.

She credited several community workers with the program, such as Barbara Gregory, who sells the greenhouse plants at The Tobacco Festival and “got my greenhouse in shape when I was on maternity leave.”

Davie also mentioned Starview Greenhouses who are “always willing to host us for a tour and encourage the students to get involved in horticulture”.

She also referenced the impact the program had on his attraction to previous students to reconnect over time. Among them is a former student, Kyle Atchison, who called to say he was planning to open a greenhouse near her: “He had Mr. Stahl, but our students who are starting their own businesses are the best what we could wish for.”

She also wants her former students to visit the greenhouse when it’s open so she can “meet her kids and see them ‘grow up’ and get plants for their own gardens or homes. It’s great to see!”

For more information and updates about the greenhouse, Davie maintains the Henry County High School Greenhouse Facebook group.

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