Spreading Holiday Cheer
HBR greenhouse grows and sells poinsettias during pandemic.
In a typical year the Hinckley-Big Rock (HBR) High School greenhouse would be bursting with poinsettias. But this year is not typical by any means.
The coronavirus pandemic has required the high school’s ag department to make adjustments by reducing the number of poinsettias grown – from 500 in the past to 150 this year – and changing the method of sale – from retail to a wholesale market. They also typically grow a variety of plants such as pinks, whites, speckled and reds but this year grew all red poinsettias for simplicity.
“We cutback because of the COVID year and unknown standards,” explained Tracey Sanderson, HBR agriculural teacher. “The school district made the decision at the start of the school year based on health and safety limitations of students being in our greenhouse.”
Normally as many as 40 students would be helping to grow the poinsettias but this year half as many students are involved in the horticulture classes due to a restructured school schedule. The upside is that HBR had in-person classes so students could get hands-on experience while social distancing.
“I’m grateful that our small school (208 students) allowed for students to be in school for most of the fall semester,” said Sanderson. “It was a benefit to our horticulture and other ag classes and the students appreciated the hands-on learning. Students were engaged and connected and it helped them socially and emotionally.”
Ashleigh Wackerlin, a junior at HBR, said she especially enjoys her ag classes. “Our teachers are adapting and it’s helped us too as we like the hands-on classes. Teachers care about our mental health.”
Raising poinsettias is part of HBR’s horticulture class curriculum under the supervision of Mrs. Sanderson. Sanderson explains that students learn about growing the plants and regularly check the healthiness of each plant, monitor any insect infestations and make sure each has adequate water.
What helps students with their plant care is the modern greenhouse with automatic climate controls and an automated watering system.
In December, horticulture students wrap the poinsettia pots in foil and get them ready for the wholesale market. Sanderson said this year they are selling them to the Big Rock Lions Club who will in turn sell them to members and organizations in the local community. Profits from the sale of poinsettias go to the HBR FFA Chapter.
The HBR FFA Chapter has not been idle during the pandemic, says Noble. “We are connecting with students here and people in our community. We are helping one another through these hard times.” Some of the community partnerships have been with the local libraries, the food pantry, historical society, FFA alumni, Farm Bureau, Lions Club and other organizations.
Raising poinsettias was part of HBR’s horticulture class. Ashleigh Wackerlin, a junior in horticulture class, was among students who watered and cared for the poinsettias during the fall semester.
“Our chapter strength is being a family,” said Sanderson. “We have the cohesiveness amongst students and members in our community.”