Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 17, 2014

Green thumbs for greenhouses

Class is a growth experience for students

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — Barren County High School students who are taking the greenhouse management class this semester are getting hands-on experience on what it’s like to operate a greenhouse business.

The students grow a variety of plants, including flowers and vegetables, all from seed. They take care of the plants, watering and fertilizing them.

“Basically, we take this class and teach them every aspect of a true greenhouse operation,” Andy Moore, agriculture instructor, said.

The plants the students grow are available for sale. The students must generate enough money from the plant sales to be able to purchase items, such as containers, seeds and fertilizer, the next class will need to start plants in the greenhouse the following semester.

The class is offered once each semester and is mainly an upper-level class for juniors and seniors, even though there are some sophomores who are eligible to take the class.  

The students start out in the classroom, learning the fundamentals of plant science and then move out to the greenhouse when it becomes time to start the plants. They are not given tasks to do in the greenhouse. Instead, they must find a task to do on their own.

“The only thing we require is that they find something early on and usually within a couple of weeks being in this class they figure out what they like working with and they just consider it their job,” Moore said. “Very seldom do I come through and have to water for them or have to seed for them.”

Occasionally, Moore will work with a student on a certain aspect, but for the most part the students know what to do, he said.

A few of the plants the students sell are started as early as September, such as the Boston Ferns. The school has a tradition of selling the ferns.

“We’ve kind of been known for them,” Moore said. “A lot of customers simply come here for the ferns, so that’s something we put a lot of emphasis on and take extra time with.”

The students are in charge of selling the plants once they mature.

“I try to stay in the background as much as possible,” he said. “The big focus on this type of class is the business end of it; dealing with customers. Probably the coolest thing for me is getting to watch them when the customers come in and they can tell them about [the plants].”  

The experience the students gain by taking the class is something they use either at home when growing their own flower or vegetable gardens, or they can take the experience with them into the workforce.

“We’ve got two [students] right now who are starting up a mum business,” Moore said.

He also gets several calls from people in the greenhouse industry who are in need of help, such as a part-time employee for the summer.

“Over the years we have been able to send people that route,” he said.

Sara Butler, a junior, is one of several students who is taking the class this semester.

“I’ve had a blast,” she said. “As you can see, we’ve grown everything you can imagine in here. It’s just been a really good experience for me because I want to major in agriculture.”

Working in a greenhouse has been a new experience for her. Butler, who is also an FFA officer, typically works with animals, instead of plants.

Of all the things she and her classmates have grown in the greenhouse, the one she thinks was the most difficult to grow were the strawberries.

“They take more time to grow than the flowers,” she said.

Tristan Martin, also a junior, took the class because “plants are my thing,” she said. “Growing something and seeing it come along in steps is really exciting to watch.”

Martin has some aspiration of becoming an agriculture teacher, but quickly said she’s not sure and may change her mind.

To her, the hardest thing to grow in the greenhouse has been the tomatoes.

“It’s hard to keep them watered because they get dry real easy,” she said.

The students will be available to sell their plants from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday of each week until mid-May while they last.