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UCHS FFA students sow first plants in new greenhouse

Months of work by the Unicoi County High School Future Farmers of America culminated with a step toward self-grown produce for the school last week.
After starting the 2014-2015 academic school year working on bedding for plants and working on their greenhouse, UCHS students were able to start planting vegetables during a ceremony hosted at the Indian Creek Nursery on Thursday, Feb. 12.
“You can see we built a lot of beds out of fiberglass,” UCHS agriculture teacher Lucas Anders said. “They’re definitely tired of drilling and bolting fiberglass together. They moved all this soil in with wheelbarrows, so they’re definitely excited. They get to see the planting and fertilizing stage and by the end of the semester, they get to see the growth and production, so they’ll get to see all sides of it.
“This group, being the first group, spent a lot of time as far as infrastructure goes, as the next group – we’ve got room to expand – so they’ll build some, too, but this group spent the majority of their time on the construction. Now they get to see the growth.”
Students spent the day, along with sponsors of the greenhouse and school officials, planting broccoli and lettuce.
Anders thanked Farm Credit, who donated the facility, and Farm Bureau for being a monthly sponsor for the FFA during the event. Along with the businesses’ support, the First Judicial District Drug Task Force donated grow lights to help with the growth process of the vegetation.
“It is a pretty big day for the FFA,” UCHS student Nathaniel Holmes said. “We’re finally getting plants into the beds that we’ve worked so hard to build and fill. It’s been a long day coming. It’s big, it’s great to know you’ve started something new.”
Adam Hill, another member of the FFA group, seconded Holmes’ sentiments of being the trailblazers for the upcoming students:
“Well, since we’re first ones to open this greenhouse, it’s good to see it grow and go through the process,” he said. “It feels pretty good. Maybe when my kids come to school here, they can still be doing the same thing, using the same stuff from the facility for the next 20 years or so.
“Back when school first started, this greenhouse was full of cinderblocks and palettes, so we had to get that cleaned out first and that was a pretty big process. Then there was irrigation lines through all these pipes and we had to take those out. One of the major things were these beds. We built these ourselves, we bought the stuff, drilled the holes and getting them out here was a process.”
Three students from the FFA will also embark on a trip to Mississippi soon, Anders said, for a tomato greenhouse short course.
“They’ll get to learn more, in-depth with commercial producers from 25 states, Mexico and the Caribbean. So we’ll get to sit down with some people with a completely different knowledge then we have,” Anders said.