FFA members are learning while getting their hands dirty

As we gear up for hopefully a productive and colorful garden, greenhouses are a buzz of activity. Many FFA chapters play a role in that success, raising bedding plants and building a community of future gardeners, farmers, and greenhouse owners, and leaders who learn to role with the punches.

Just outside Music City, the Hendersonville FFA takes a lot of pride in its horticulture program. It serves as a year-round educational tool, and a business enterprise.

“So the plant science class and the landscape class in the fall kind of get our production started, and then when the spring semester rolls around, we have two greenhouse classes, and all of those students are expected to be out in the greenhouse, working on transplanting our cuttings, transplanting our plugs that we’ve purchased... and just preparing the greenhouse for what you see now for our big annual spring plant sale,” FFA advisor Hailey Gates explains.

And what you see is their annual greenhouse fundraiser. Gates says that from seeding to sale, most of the responsibility falls on members who learn while getting their hands dirty.

“I know now as a teacher... I have students who maybe struggle a little bit in their English classes and math classes-- but man they get out here and they’re a completely different student,” Gates states. “Because we are offering education in a hands-on way.”

That is a sentiment echoed by Chapter Vice President Chloe Ward: “I think it’s something cool to learn about, whether that’s having to make social media posts, or having to make sure you’re charging people the right amount of money and making sure the money gets counted right at the end of the day...”

Counting the money, watering the plants, and interacting with customers, all part of the lessons learned. But sometimes, like a year ago when COVID became a global problem, life adjustments become part of the lesson.

According to Steve Stephens, an ag advisor, “We all went to spring break thinking we’d be back in a week, and we didn’t see our students for months... you had to be so fluid.”

The lockdowns last spring hit, just as the greenhouse was ready for business-- so the chapter had to roll with it.

“We had to reorganize and make some changes, and we put everything online in a matter of a few days and our customers were happy with that process and how it worked out and were excited to be able to still buy something,” Stephens adds.

The greenhouse typically manned by students always sells over a period of five weeks, but Stephens says that last year’s sudden business shift, allowed the community to show their support online and they sold out in three days.

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