Visiting the gardens of Greenville High School, even in winter, is to feel the excitement of the possibilities. The pride and enthusiasm of Dan Brown, professor of gardens and industrial arts, for his projects is startling.
Many changes are underway in both programs for high school and students interested in more professional streams with practical opportunities to build, plan and run a functional and profitable garden.
On March 14, Brown shared with the Plumas Unified School District Board recent projects related to the two vocational technical education classes: the garden and the industrial arts.
Students in Brown’s classes, he reported, had learned to recycle old redwood planks, which were about to be thrown away. They had been painted white and were in elementary school and were sanded down to reveal their true nature and value.
Students are also turning the planks into bunk beds for the outdoor education program at the site of the former Taylorsville Elementary School. Lloyd Roath built a prototype that sits in the middle of the classroom at the GHS woodworking shop.
The GHS program will build 12 bunk beds and the Chester High School program will also build beds with wood donated by Sierra Pacific Industries. Program director Rob Wade planned to use six different species of trees growing in the area to make the beds. GHS will focus on white fir and douglas fir.
The two students involved in this program are Malcolm Henry and Matthew Mobley.
Garden and industrial arts classes have more in common, however, than just a shared instructor, as Brown is quick to point out in the Garden. The outbuildings, greenhouse, and raised beds have all been built by students over the years, either in carpentry classes or as senior projects.
The new tractor acquired with CTE funds is already being used to turn over soil for the compost heap and will be used more as the garden begins to expand. The Tractor is part of a program at Feather River College that will earn students CTE course credits with a combination of hands-on activities and course hours that will allow students to use the classroom in the ‘real world’.
The garden is about to begin what Brown calls Phase II of its expansion. Currently the garden has a small area which contains the primary school garden. Now the GHS garden will occupy this space and the primary school will have its own separate garden on the primary school side.
The primary school garden will be three times its current size and will have a separate gate to give the space more ownership for elementary students. Ramsey Harvey is in charge of this program. Attachment to primary school is important for the secondary curriculum. Brown sees younger students teaching the importance of growing your own food, and the skills that come with it will pay off more in high school and beyond.
Supporting the elementary curriculum helps build sustainability and a mind reset for students when they are older. Gardening, he hopes, will become intrinsic – and the high school gardening program – currently small – like the plants themselves, will thrive.
The expansion of the Greenville High School garden will increase its area to 5.7 acres of land between the back of school buildings and the athletic fields.
It is a perfect example for the students and the community of reallocation of land that had either remained inactive due to projects long ago or was little used before.
Most of the garden will be raised beds. They will, however, try to plant directly in parts of the garden – although Brown admits the downtown Greenville gopher problem might get in their way.
The garden, at its current size, has been maintained. According to Brown, the garden makes $ 4,000 a year between sales of plants and seedlings in the spring for local gardeners and sales of produce.
This year, Brown plans to sell the organic garden produce through Quincy Natural Foods. A late harvest will also ensure that the garden feeds student meal programs in the fall.
Brown is hoping to see the program grow and, for his part, wishes a program like this had been available when he was a teenager.
It is hoped that a program with practical learning experiences will give the student a vocation to integrate into his adult life.