SEEDS FOR THE FUTURE
Story and photos by
of The Observer
Few of them are bound to the land in any traditional sense, but that hasn't stopped these teens from getting hooked on agriculture in its purest sense the pleasure of sowing a seed and watching it grow.
"We grew all these plants from scratch," says enthusiastic Katlin Eyre, a 15-year-old LHS freshman who lives in Union. "I love plants. We're ranchers, so I grew up around plants."
But most of the 30 students in Paul Anderes' popular horticulture class are not ranchers, nor do they come from agricultural backgrounds.
"My family's not real good at keeping plants," admits sophomore Jennifer Rowell, 15, of La Grande, who says she just wanted to learn more about them. "I think I inherited my love of plants from my Grandma."
Though some may have a special interest in horticulture, these budding botanists "copped to it" the fact they signed up hoping to have fun in what they thought would be a pretty easy class.
Four months later, they are definitely having the fun, but admit they've each learned something valuable over the term, including great respect and obvious admiration for their instructor. Indeed, all of them think Horticulture II should be a choice on the course schedule for next year.
"This experience has actually given me insight into a potential career," a forward-looking Rowell says.
And though the class was "way funner" than they thought it would be, they discovered it takes major effort to produce two greenhouses full of thriving vegetables, herbs, flowers and trees.
"Well, it's more hands-on more practical than a lot of book work. And it's just hard physically. I don't think I've ever worked this hard," says Josh Poppe, 17, a junior who lives in Cove. He says he's shoveled, mixed and cleaned up a lot of plant soil in the past four months.
But it has definitely been worth their effort. Anderes believes this may be the best greenhouse the horticulture class has produced in nine years.
"I have an exceptional class. They've worked phenomenally hard on this project," he says proudly. "I'd like to take credit, but it's the kids."
"I personally think it's the soil," jokes mix master Poppe.
The fruit of approximately 30 students' labor now burgeons within two greenhouses at the LHS complex. But Jesse Cimon, a 16-year-old sophomore from La Grande, remembers a very slow start when nothing was sprouting.
"We think the soil was too dry, so we started mixing it with water before we planted. It worked," he says, indicating the trays and trays of fresh, sweet basil in front of him.
"Did Mr. Anderes mention we're selling this to New York Richie's?" he asks.
Indeed, the basil crop at the LHS greenhouse is so good this year, they've contracted with restaurateur Richie Brosetti, who says the class's crop is "top notch great leaves."
More herbs like cilantro and dill thrive in the greenhouse, as well. And there are tomatoes all varieties from beefsteak to cherry. There are peppers, leeks and the pumpkins they always grow for
La Grande's grade schools to carve at Halloween. There are also hanging pots of petunias, bowls of begonias and colorful coleus. They have even grown aspen trees and red twig dogwoods.
"Yeah, the trees were just sticks when we planted them," grins Megan Bedard, a 15-year-old freshman from La Grande. "We just hope everybody comes to our sale."
The annual greenhouse plant sale begins Thursday at 8 a.m.
"There are no early sales and we don't drop our prices," says Anderes, adding that the prices are set to cover expenses, not make money. For example, the large hanging petunia baskets are $12 while the big color bowls are $17. The trees and shrubs are $7 and all tomatoes and four-packs are $1. Whatever is left over, the students will probably take home to enjoy themselves.
"It's not about making money," Anderes says, it's about the learning. "That's what we're here for."