Strathmore Steps Up Ornamental Horticulture

FFA Advisor John Akin helps students in one of his Ornamental Horticulture class with transplanting rosemary into larger containers. Nancy Vigran

Strathmore’s Ag Department has growing Floral and Ornamental Horticulture (OH) departments. We are currently in the process of building three 40 x 60-foot greenhouses, an aquaponics unit, and our 40-foot long CropBox.

We are hoping to have all of the buildings up and running in the next few months on the 12 acres of land, Strathmore High School purchased last year.

Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system.

The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in.

A CropBox is pretty much a farm within a shipping container. A CropBox has the benefit of growing many different crops where you can monitor and maintain everything, without happening to worry about pests, or horrible weather.

It helps students observe how each crop grows and teaches them how to maintain and care for the crop. CropBox is a part of Williamson Greenhouses in North Carolina. According to the company website, a CropBox uses “90% less water than conventional and greenhouse cultivation.”

Our OH Department helps maintain our greenhouses, and produces vegetables for our Farmers Market. They also grow flowers for our Floral Department. Strathmore High has always had an OH Department, but over the last few years there has been a lower interest in the classes.

So, this year our advisors are really making it a main focus and trying to improve the department by giving it more appeal.

There are now two classes of OH with 30 students in each class. Students must be of sophomore status to enroll in OH, and may take the class more than once.

Our Floral Department use flowers grown by OH, to create arrangements for our Farmers Market.

They also have a monthly subscription for arrangements. This class teaches students the skills it takes to be a floral designer.

Currently we have a total of 230 students in our Floral and OH classes.

On the newly 12 acres purchased for the Ag Farm, approximately six acres will be dedicated to growing lemons, said FFA Advisor John Akin.

Plans are for a new well to be dug on the land soon. The school plans on planting Chardonnay grapes, with a lot of room for fresh vegetables.

There is plenty of room for more animal project pens including chickens, swine and lambs. The department plans on purchasing breeding animals in the future.

“This is the stuff you want kids involved in,” Akin said.

“The goal is to pay our own way,” he added.

The department hopes to hold regular Farmers Markets with fresh produce, eggs, plants and floral arrangements available on a routine basis. During the holidays there could be flowers, wreaths, candles and other craft-related items available.

It helps, Akin said, that the school has a lot support.

“The superintendent is super positive,” he said. “He’s really onboard for us.”

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