MUSCATINE, Iowa–Gardeners across Muscatine have begun getting out to prepare their plots to look beautiful all summer long. For years, people have relied on the Muscatine FFA plant sale to provide them with healthy and gorgeous plants, all grown by local agriculture students. Though the sale cannot take place the way it typically does due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Muscatine High School agriculture teachers have gotten creative and moved the sale online for the first time ever.
Currently, Muscatine FFA has roughly $10,000 worth of plants that they hope to sell to benefit their students for the 2020-2021 school district. “The profits have always gone to scholarships, career development events, and student projects,” stated Sam Paul, an Agriculture Teacher at Muscatine High School.
Additionally, the preparation that goes into the FFA plant sale provides hands on experience for students studying horticulture. Paul detailed that in the fall, students select the plants they want to grow, and then go through the process of planting seeds, transplanting them to larger containers, pruning and shaping them, and finally selling them. Students worked hard up until spring break to get their flowers ready for the sale, but have not had access to them since school closed. “The biggest challenge is that we have a great group of students who want to be in the greenhouse and we have had to keep them out,” said Paul.
Not wanting the students efforts to come to naught, agriculture teachers made final preparations to get plants ready and worked with the school district to organize a safe ordering and pickup system that promotes social distancing. “This year, the ag teachers have taken over the final care, of course one at a time to make sure we are following all social distancing policies,” outlined Paul: “Dave Tometich, Ashley Wiebe, and Josh Day have spent a lot of time taking care of plants, taking inventory, and creating an online system. The school staff has been helpful developing an online payment plan and helping access some materials.”
Beginning Friday, April 24 and continuing each Friday through May 17, community members may pick up their plants. To order, anyone interested may visit the FFA plant sale website, view available plants, make their selection, and pay for it any time in the week before they plan to pick it up, and schedule their pickup time. In order to allow for social distancing, only a limited number of customers may sign up for each time slot.
With the weather warming, Paul hopes many community members will choose to purchase their plants for the year from the Muscatine FFA’s first ever online plant sale. “The plant sale is a great learning experience for our students,” emphasized Paul. “It is a process that they start and finish all in a year. They see and are part of the whole process; it is too bad that students aren’t able to finish the project, but they put in so much work early on, we hated to see it all go to waste.”