Students at Middlebury Union High School have been growing a wide variety of greens and carefully keeping track of data for local farmers. The project, part of the high school’s alternative education program, is a way for students to learn about agriculture and business. Students create business plans for their garden beds, pay their expenses and sell the greens to the high school cafeteria. Although the money they spend and make is not actual money, the math and business practices they learn are as real as can be.
The students mentioned another benefit. “I absolutely love this class because when you’re having a stressful day it’s very therapeutic,” said Alexandra Tellier. The work is satisfying, she said, and is capable of distracting one from outside problems. “Your garden. This is what you take your time to do and see it come along.”
Dakoda Miller aspires to be a game warden one day. He also loves gardening and agriculture and might go in that direction as a career. At an open house at the greenhouse May 15, he showed the seven different varieties of greens he is growing for Unity Farm in Charlotte. These included Italian dandelions, Red Veined Sorrel, and Red and Green Incised Salanova.
“All I really did was planted them. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. He also kept careful records for the colorful greens to say how long it took them to germinate, how much watering was done, the temperature in the greenhouse, how long it took them to get to full size, and notes on flavor.
He said being in the class has got him really interested in greenhouse work. It’s interesting to see everything grow. He said he likes the work because he likes “seeing stuff grow and seeing that you can control something that helps people live and keeps people healthy. It’s healthy food.”
A former student, Terran Leggett, who was on hand for the open house, said he likes the fact the vegetables go right to the cafeteria, 100 yards away. “It saves on diesel and packaging and all that,” he said.
Austen Moore is a junior and has been working in the greenhouse since he was a freshman.
“Before this I’ve never really done hands-on work,” he said. Austen added that he appreciates having learned financial literacy in the class by creating his business plan and tracking it.
“I’m looking into culinary and also some agriculture,” he said. “I think it’s really important to know how to grow your food and how to cook the food you grow.”
Skyler Tavis said she likes working in the greenhouse because it’s relaxing and because she can apply what she learns. The food is good too, she said.
Teacher Steve Colangeli has seen the alternative education class make a difference in students’ lives. The greenhouse can be a tool to teach science, math, and fine arts, he said. Fine arts comes in when students build bird houses, for example. Students also build raised beds for community members, a program he is hoping to expand.