Learning the greenback effect

March 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - For Washington County Technical High School students studying carpentry, cosmetology and culinary arts, the idea of operating a business is on fertile ground.

Steve Frame's entrepreneurship classes have nurtured that idea - in a greenhouse long left dormant.

"An entrepreneurship class in the true sense is, 'Do you want to run your own business? How do you go about doing that?'" Frame said Thursday morning while working in the greenhouse where his students are starting a budding plant business.

Tiny tangles of impatiens peeked from green plastic packages on wire shelves, and orderly rows of cuttings were spread across concrete tabletops. Carpentry students worked Thursday morning to make shelves to flank the sides of the building.


With spring just around the corner, the greenhouse is undergoing a rebirth.

"It's really flipped in a real positive way," Principal Jeff Stouffer said of the greenhouse. According to Stouffer, the greenhouse was unused for two decades before this year. Weeds and trees grew up through the roof, breaking about 20 panes of glass, and animals took refuge below.

"The funny thing is, I know we had in years past, we have had snakes and groundhogs," Stouffer said.

Using the greenhouse is a first for the class, Frame said. It plans to sell plants from the greenhouse on line and is considering walk-in sales.

Senior Jeremiah Lee Twigg, 18, is one of about 30 students taking the class, which teaches students the basics of business ownership, from developing a business plan to determining the location for a new company.

Twigg, who has taken the high school's culinary arts curriculum, dreams of riding his BMX bike professionally.

"You definitely need a business plan for that, and location, location's a big part because around here, you're not going to get noticed," said Twigg, of Hagerstown.

Frame, who studied horticulture as a vocational high student in West Virginia, said moving into the greenhouse has given his classes an opportunity to gain experience in business.

He said he is amazed by the program's potential, especially considering the condition of the greenhouse just a short time ago.

"When you're starting something up, I mean, can you imagine not having it in operation for 18 years? Not having a building for 18 years?" Frame asked.

The building, which had sat empty for at least 18 years, still had no heat when the first deliveries of plants arrived. The program, Frame said, started from scratch, "beyond scratch."

Frame helped cut away sumac bushes and snarls of weeds. Maintenance workers replaced the glass and checked electrical outlets.

The heater, which whirled to life several times Thursday morning, remains unreliable, Frame said.

Frame and his parents, retired teachers Barb and Dick Frame, have worked for the past two weeks watering and fertilizing thousands of plants - so far, the school is expecting about 7,000 seedlings, plugs and cuttings to take root at the greenhouse - and covering them when the heater gave out.

Frame said he is amazed by the support so many people have given in bringing life to the greenhouse.

"Here, we have the maintenance people helping with heating, helping with electricity and, of course, the carpentry students helping with shelves ... It really is a schoolwide project," Frame said.

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