Smith Gardens has always been generous in our local community schools, as we discovered the need, we organized our mission and gave our outreach program a name, Cultivating The Future. It quickly expanded into 18 schools public & private, in 3 counties of Washington state. Pre Covid, we had been helping schools & community colleges in Aurora OR area, with tours & donations, we hope to get back to tours in the Spring of 2022.
Most of the schools are in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties have greenhouses and classes that include plant science, floral design, greenhouse management and horticulture programs. The schools rely on their annual plant sales to help fund the greenhouse program. Students learn to start from seed, transplant and design hanging baskets and planters. They advertise their sales just before Mother’s Day and exposes students to the retail part of greenhouse/horticulture industry.
We have donated soil, 1,000 of plant liners, plastic planters, hanging baskets, packs, and miscellaneous items so that the money they raise at their sales goes back into the program. This helps with maintenance of greenhouse, funds for students to attend FFA floral design, and horticulture competitions. I have even heard stories of a homeless student able to have a new FFA jacket to attend events.
We expanded the program to include Poinsettias in the fall. We donate green poinsettias for students to learn the process of bringing a poinsettia to color. They test different fertilizers, and light exposure to learn how sensitive process to grow a healthy plant in time for the holiday season.
We offer tours in 3 facilities during spring and poinsettia growing seasons for preschool – college age students. Our team covers growing practices, greenhouse education, job opportunities, and history of SGI. We start in the soil room and take them through how a plant starts and ends on the truck. We have had several students that have attended a tour come work at Smith Gardens.
I am inspired each time I deliver plants to a school or greet a bus load of students, knowing that they will experience something they may not have had the chance to. Knowing a student may learn how easy it is to grow their own food in such a little space puts a smile on my face. And if we have only one student come work for us or seek education in the industry it means the future of horticulture will go on and it was time well spent.
Kim Bowthorpe- Sales Support Coordinator