Tech High students get their hands dirty in running a greenhouse

March 10, 2011|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |

HAGERSTOWN — Horticulture and business students at Washington County Technical High School will get a real-world lesson on how to keep profits growing after their greenhouse flowers bloom.

"We run it as a business," said Steve Frame, who is environmental-horticulture and landscape-design teacher at Tech High.

The refurbished greenhouse has operated as a nursery for seven years on school grounds. The students use the money they make to fund greenhouse operations. Entrepreneurship students sell what is grown. The money earned pays for next season's supplies, Frame said.

So in an effort to keep profits sprouting, Tech High's horticulture class will make its debut appearance at the 17th annual Flower & Garden Show, Saturday, March 12, and Sunday, March 13, at Hagerstown Community College.

"We don't want to be a best-kept secret," Frame said.

They'll certainly have the opportunity to spread the word. Prior flower and garden shows have attracted thousands of consumers who come hoping to get fresh gardening ideas for spring, giving vendors plenty of face time with consumers.

The plan, Frame said, is to build up buzz for the greenhouse's season opening Wednesday, March 23. The students were hoping to have their website updated and live by today.

There were 3,500 plants occupying the 1,200-square-foot space inside the greenhouse on the day of The Herald-Mail's visit. At any given point more than 40 people have crammed into the narrow aisles of the greenhouse.

"We've got tons of flowers and not enough space," said Nikole Kotanko, 16, senior, whose home school is South Hagerstown High School.

By the end of the season, the greenhouse will have produced 10,000 plants, Frame said. Items sell for between $1.25 and $12.

"One of the expectations is that students can be self-sustaining, that they can grow their own gardens and work with their families, work with their communities," Frame said.

Nikole said participating in the horticultural class has made her consider opening her own nursery after she graduates from college.

"I like the dirt. It's fun," Nikole said.

She and classmate Lacy Kelley, 16, of Clear Spring, gushed over sprouting cabbage they had planted from seed. It had only been a week and tiny leaves had sprouted through the dirt.

"We use a heating pad to help it grow faster," Lacy said. She also plans to pursue a career in landscaping.

Travis Clipp, 16, of Clear Spring, said he enrolled in Frame's horticulture class because he aspires to work for Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It's been a rewarding experience so far, he said.

"With this class, the second we're in here, we're in the greenhouse," Travis said. "I can't be in a classroom taking notes with a paper and a pencil. I have to get the hands-on thing."

Brian Gossard, 16, of Hagers-town, plans to either teach or pursue a career in horticulture after he graduates. He proudly showed off a bed of broad-leaf begonias he helped plant since he's been in the class.

"They've grown pretty well," Brian said. "They get pretty big."

Scott Smith, a 17-year-old junior from Hagerstown, is enrolled in both the horticulture and the entrepreneurship sections. He said he hopes to use what he's learned to operate his own farm one day.

"Running this business shows you how to run a business," Scott said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Greenhouse season opening
WHERE: Washington County Technical High School, 50 W. Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown.
WHEN: Wednesday, March 23. Greenhouse hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.
MORE: More information will become available on the greenhouse website,

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