Phil Campbell greenhouse gives plants, students room to grow
Since the first week of February, students at Phil Campbell High School have been busy in the school’s greenhouse – growing vegetables and flowers and also cultivating their own knowledge and skills, all under the direction of agriculture instructor Caleb Beason.
“I really desire for students, when they leave my program, that they are what I describe as a well-rounded student,” explained Beason, who has taught ag at Phil Campbell since 2018 – his own classes defined by the education he received under Russellville High School agriscience teacher Donnie Nichols. “We saw how important plant production was during the year of COVID; 2020, especially the middle of March when so many people were getting laid off from work, there was a study released by the USDA saying more gardens were planted that year in modern times than there had been in many years.
“We saw how important skilled trades are and being able to do things on your own.”
All of Beason’s classes are involved in greenhouse work, from the general agriscience, fundamentals of ag and greenhouse production classes, even to his construction and framing and animal science classes – about 100 students in total.
“I like doing things with my hands and seeing the progress of all the plants,” explained senior Hannah Presley. The same is true for junior Mason Mims. “I just like working with my friends and being hands on,” Mims agreed.
The school’s greenhouse was constructed in 2015, after the 2011 tornado demolished the former structure, and Beason said the current facility is top notch, complete with concrete floors and a good ventilation system.
Everything in the greenhouse starts from seeds. After the germination process, seven to 14 days, and once the young plants grow to a sufficient height, students will remove the humidity domes so the plants can continue to grow.
Beason said the growing process requires students to be in the greenhouse daily. Once the plants have flourished to a certain point, transplanting is a major task the students undertake – that’s one of junior Jonah Walker’s favorite parts. “It’s cool to see from where we planted the seeds, to the little sprouts we have now,” Walker said.
The end goal, of course, is to sell the products of their labor, funding next year’s plants as well as other needs in the agriculture department. PCHS’ plant sale begins the Monday following spring break – this year, April 4 – with customers welcome to come by during school hours.
Students continue to be involved during this part of the process, when Beason said they learn important lessons about interacting with customers and handling money.
The PCHS greenhouse boasts eight full tables of plants, a wide variety of flowers as well as vegetables. Beason said the ornamental sweet potato vine is usually a popular choice among customers, and anything with a beautiful color is always in high demand. Petunias and geraniums will be in good supply at the Phil Campbell sale.
Flowers and vegetables sell from $2-5.
“My only regret is that I didn’t join ag class when I first got to high school,” said Walker, who first joined the program in his sophomore year. “Everything Mr. Beason has told us has left an effect on me. The words that he leaves with us will be with us until the day we die, and I plan to remember the lessons he has taught me.”
Russellville High and Red Bay High also boast active greenhouses and will have plant sales this spring.
Red Bay’s will be April 30 beginning at 8 a.m. until about 2 p.m., held in cooperation with the Red Bay Garden Club. Vegetables, plants and flowers will run from $2-10.
RHS will begin early sales March 28 through April 1 and continue after April 4-8 spring break. Sales will continue Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Greenhouses are located across from the visitors side of the football stadium.
Beason said the greenhouse programming is student built but community-driven, and he appreciates everyone’s support. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without the dollars they support us with,” Beason said.