April 11, 2014

Farm Beat: Turlock High students pot and sell plants

Plant science students at Turlock High School will sell potted plants to raise money for the program.

Hundreds of times Wednesday morning, students eased plants from small pots and placed them into larger pots. The horticulture class at Turlock High School was preparing for a plant sale next week – and learning that a delicate touch matters.

“Just squeeze the pot and make sure you get everything out,” said sophomore Nicole McCarthy after doing just that with a zucchini seedling.

The three-day sale next week will feature flowers and vegetable seedlings, houseplants, succulents and other plants, along with garden art and containers made by students. The proceeds will go to the horticulture and agricultural engineering programs at Turlock High, which tend to go through more raw materials than, say, a course on English literature.

The students have gained skills they can use in the future, whether in their backyards or on farms.

“There are a lot of jobs in agriculture,” said senior Alex Gutierrez just after mixing compost and other soil-building materials in a bin. “Plant science is really big, and there are a lot of careers for the future.”

Heather Nolan teaches the horticulture class, which covers plant parts, propagation methods, pest management, landscaping and other topics. The plants grow in a greenhouse and small areas in the shade and sun.

“We’re not stuck in the classroom all day,” said junior Elise Goodrum, who helped McCarthy with the squash plants. “We get to work outside.”

Every farm in in the Northern San Joaquin Valley relies on people who know how to plant things – feed corn for dairy cows, seedlings in a tomato field, saplings in a walnut orchard, or vines that will supply wineries.

The region also has nurseries that grow a lot of the young plants that farmers and gardeners will transplant here and beyond. County crop reports estimated their 2012 gross income at $109 million in Stanislaus, $88 million in San Joaquin and $48 million in Merced.

If the Turlock horticulture students don’t go to work in this field, they at least have skills they can use in their leisure time.

“It’s a good experience,” senior Juan Cortez said. “If you own a house, you know how to maintain the yard and make it flourish, instead of paying someone to do it. It’s a sense of pride.”

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