Midway High Schools’ horticulture students’ green thumbs are producing a lot of green for both the school and the community, everything from the vibrant green plants that fill the school’s two greenhouses to the faded green bills people exchange for the students’ homegrown produce.
“The horticulture class raises the plants from start to finish,” shared Midway High agriculture teacher Scott Jolly. “They plant the seeds, do everything required to raise them, and then help sell them.”
“I’ve planted thousands of seeds,” said senior Sessali Hunter as fellow senior Heith Smith listed the class’s daily greenhouse duties. “We water almost every day, reorganize, fertilize, take cuttings of coleus.”
“We also transplant some of the plants to bigger pots so they have more room to grow,” added senior Brett Butler.
The result of all the students’ — the horticulture class is made up of 19 students — hard work is two greenhouses full of produce for the community.
The school’s greenhouses are open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and customers need not stay away during school hours.
“We have a walkie-talkie system,” explained Jolly of how he and his students know customers are out at the greenhouses. “When people come during the school day, they ring that they’re out there and it lets me know.”
The greenhouses are also open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Saturdays are our best days. It’s nothing for there to be 15 people here at one time on Saturdays,” Jolly pointed out. “There’s constant traffic.”
Thanks to the students’ dedication to producing a variety of good-quality plants, customers visiting the school’s greenhouses certainly have a wide selection to choose from.
“We have over 30 different varieties of plants,” Jolly noted. “We have bedding plants, annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, decorative planters, vegetables and herbs.”
Midway’s customers also have the added bonus of thoughtful accommodations and easy accessibility, the kind one normally doesn’t find in most greenhouses.
“The county came out and built the greenhouses for us. They’re really nice and we’re lucky to have them. They have concrete floors which you usually don’t see in greenhouses. That’s because of the American Disability Act. Most people don’t think about it, but we do have quite a few customers who are handicapped that come out. The concrete makes it so they can come, even if they are in a wheelchair,” explained Jolly. “We also have some elderly folks who come and a lot of them have canes. You wouldn’t see them coming out and walking around if we had rocks instead of concrete.”
Considering the accommodations and the wide variety of quality produce, it’s not surprising that Midway’s greenhouses have been successful.
According to Jolly, the school sold over $17,000 worth of plants last year, an amount that greatly contributed to the betterment of the school.
“The greenhouses are how we fund a lot of the activities we do. It helps us to buy new tools and equipment and do new projects,” said Jolly. “Plus, we have to have enough to continue to grow plants in the greenhouses next year. We always reinvest the money into our programs.”
Although the financial profits are certainly helpful, the profit Jolly likes to see the most is that which is evident in the students themselves.
Each student chose to participate in the horticulture class for his or her own individual reasons.
“Part of my family is involved in farming so I just wanted to do something to learn more about plants, especially since this is a farming community,” shared Smith who enjoys working with the vegetable plants.
“I’ve always been interested in how greenhouses work,” said Hunter whose favorite items in the greenhouses are the flowers. “I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn about it before this, and I think I’ve learned a lot more doing this than I would have if I were just sitting in a classroom.”
“This is not your usual elective. It’s a nature-related class so we don’t have to be stuck in a classroom all day. It’s hands-on learning,” Butler added.
Regardless of how the students came to the class, Jolly is happy to see them gaining useful knowledge and developing practical skills as they work in the greenhouses, knowledge and skills that can have a lasting impact on their lives.
“The kids get really involved in this project. It’s certainly hands-on. In addition to raising the plants, they go out there and help our customers and in the process learn about things like customer relations and public speaking.”
“It also teaches them things that they can take home and use,” Jolly continued. “Really, they know everything that they would need to know if they worked at a nursery. I mean, they might have learn some of the specifics of that particular nursery, but they would know how to do the the basic, simple tasks that would be required.”
And the student’s couldn’t agree more, aware of how much they are learning.
“I’ve learned a lot more about public speaking and interacting with customers than I thought I would,” said Smith while Hunter listed some things customers often ask them. “They ask us which plants do best in the sun, how much water they need, which tomato plants are less susceptible to disease.”
“Champions,” replied Butler to the last item Hunter mentioned, adding that the class has learned to identify all sorts of plants.
“Of course, it’s student activity, a learning project, so it has its ups and downs, but it is also something the community wants which means a lot,” said Jolly. “We’re proud of our product and glad that customers keep coming back.”
For more information about Midway High’s greenhouses, please contact Scott Jolly at 910-567-6664 (school) or 910-214-6471 (cell).
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.