By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Prior to all West Virginia schools closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpentry and Agriculture Instructor Paul Pennington was in the middle of a horticulture course. The students in this class were responsible for starting hundreds of plants in time for them to germinate and become stable enough to transplant into flower beds or vegetable gardens. Even though the schools have closed their doors, the plants are still being cared for and offered for public purchase Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m.
Haley Tuttle, TCHS sophomore, was a member of the horticulture course and was on the forefront of preparing the plants for purchase. Tuttle stated, “I took the horticulture class because I’m trying to be a completer in Agriculture and it was the next class in line.” She continued, “My favorite part was definitely working out in the greenhouse and seeing our progress as the seeds took hold and grew into the plants we have now.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after the planting took place that Governor Justice closed schools, along with other facilities, in efforts to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus. “”I’m really sad that I can’t be up there to help out. Spring is my favorite time of year for agriculture because I spend a lot of time in the greenhouse selling plants or tending to them.”
As you enter the greenhouse situated behind the Career Center at TCHS, you will walk into a vegetative paradise from crisp cabbage and tomato plants on the tables to colorful flowers streaming over the hanging baskets draped from the ceiling. Options include eight inch hanging baskets for $12 and 10 inch pots for $14. Other flowers include ground cover and foliage such as dusty millers as well as several annual flowers including snap dragons, begonias, and petunias to name a few.
Choices in vegetables include a variety of tomatoes, cabbage, Hungarian, sweet, and hot peppers, jalapenos, cucumbers, and zucchini. Prices for both the flower and vegetable packages are $3 for a six pack and larger, single plants are $1 each.
The students also set up a hydroponics system to grow lettuce for learning and experimental purposes. “I liked doing the lettuce because we didn’t use soil,” said Tuttle. “We set up a hydroponics system and started the seeds in this really fragile material,” she continued. “Once they got started, we stuck them in the water and they took off.” “It was cool to see how you can still grow plants without soil,” Tuttle said. “I’ve been intrigued by the hydroponics and aquaponics systems for a while now and I finally got to see firsthand how it works,” she concluded.
A new cover has been placed on the high tunnel after collapse under inclement weather. Funds were secured to enclose the ends that will further assist in the ability to control the growing climate of the produce. “We already have the stuff, just need help to get it done,” stated Pennington. “We hope to supply the cafeteria with fresh vegetables for the salad bar and food for the FFA banquets and elimination dinners,” he added. “Some of the students are using it (the high tunnel and greenhouse) for their SAE (supervised agricultural experience) and are hoping to sell at the Farmers Market,” Pennington concluded.
Another grant for an aquaponics system that will allow the students to grow lettuce for the school cafeteria prior to the shutdown was sought. He is hopeful that this will still be available, given the situation, and will allow him to further grow the opportunities the TCHS agriculture program has to offer.
For more information or questions regarding the purchase of plants from the TCHS Greenhouse, you can follow the school Facebook page for periodic updates or contact Pennington at 304-621-3216.