Bradley County: Growing green

Bradley County: Growing green

April 23rd, 2009 by Randall Higgins in Green

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - This season's gardeners can find greenhouses brimming with plants now at two Bradley County high schools.

Plant sales support the Future Farmers of America programs at Walker Valley High School and Bradley Central High School.

The usual flowering bedding plants and hanging baskets are all there, but this spring there are more vegetable plants, too.

More people want to grow vegetables this year, said Luann Carey, a teacher at Bradley Central.

"We are growing a lot of heirlooms this year," Ms. Carey said. "These are tomatoes from which you can save the seeds and plant next year too."

Walker Valley has an abundance of vegetable plants, too.

Teacher Jason Kincaid said Walker Valley students do everything for the program: plant the seeds, care for the plants and conduct the greenhouse sale.

"We've just started and it's been pretty steady," student Tyler Morrow said. "Each morning now we come through and water the plants and look at them all to make sure they are looking good."

There's a big demand for tomatoes, said Ben Kazy, so the Walker Valley greenhouses have many varieties along with other vegetables.

The Walker Valley students agreed their favorite part of the work is sales.

"We like to work with people, just the social contact," said Tyler Richesin.

Tyler Morrow said it takes time to care for the soil and get the seeds planted and growing.

"But after a while you get interested in all of it," he said.

Tyler Richesin said there's always something unexpected.

"It's a challenge sometimes to keep everything organized," he said.

At Bradley Central, teacher Richard Ledford said the goal of a career/technical education is to prepare students for work.

"They learn to work together and plan a project from start to finish," he said.

Ms. Carey said the students and the gardening public both are becoming more aware of recycling. Customers are bringing in plastic plant trays for refills rather than tossing them away. Students are experimenting with peat pots that go directly in the ground for some tomato plants.

There's another benefit to high school greenhouse sales, Ms. Carey said. Since the students are caring for the plants from seedlings until they go out the door, the plants must be very durable, bug and disease resistant.

"We don't grow anything in this house that's easy to kill," she said.