To tour the grounds of Greenville High School’s garden — even in winter — is to feel the excitement of possibilities. Garden and industrial arts instructor Dan Brown’s pride and enthusiasm for his projects is catching.
There are many changes afoot in both programs for the high school and students interested in more vocational tracks with practical hands-on opportunities for building, planning and executing a working and profitable garden.
On March 14, Brown shared with the Plumas Unified School District board recent projects related to the two Career Technical Education classes: garden and industrial arts.
Students in Brown’s classes, he reported, had learned to upcycle old redwood planks, which were about to be discarded. They’d been painted white and were in the elementary school and were sanded to reveal their true nature and value.
Students are also turning boards into bunk beds for the Outdoor Education program on the site of the former Taylorsville Elementary School. Lloyd Roath built a prototype that sits in the middle of the GHS woodshop classroom.
The GHS program will be building 12 bunk beds and Chester High School’s program will be building beds as well with wood donated by Sierra Pacific Industries. Program Director Rob Wade envisioned utilizing six different species of trees growing in the region to make the beds. GHS will concentrate on white fir and Douglas fir.
The two students involved in this program are Malcolm Henry and Matthew Mobley.
The garden and the industrial arts classes have more in common however than just a shared instructor, as Brown is quick to point out in the garden. The outbuildings, greenhouse, and raised beds were all built by students over the years either in woodshop classes or as senior projects.
The new tractor acquired through CTE funds is already being put to use to turn earth for the compost pile and it will see more use as the garden begins its expansion. The tractor is part of a Feather River College program that will get students CTE course credit with a combination of hands-on activity and lecture hours that will have students able to put the class to use in the “real world.”
The garden is about to begin what Brown calls Phase II of its expansion. Currently the garden has a small area that contains the elementary school garden. Now the GHS garden will take over that space and the elementary school will get its own separate garden on the elementary school side.
The elementary school garden will be three times its current size and have a separate gate to it to give the space more ownership for the elementary students. Ramsey Harvey is in charge of this program. Elementary school tie-in is important to the high school program. Brown sees teaching students at a younger age the importance of growing one’s own food and the skills that come with it will pay off better in high school and beyond.
Supporting the elementary program helps build sustainability and a mind reset for students when they’re older. Gardening, he hopes, will become intrinsic — and the high school gardening program — currently small — like the plants themselves, will grow.
Greenville High School’s garden expansion will bring its area to 5.7 acres of land between the back of the school buildings and the athletic fields.
It’s a perfect example for the students and the community of repurposing land that had either sat idle from long ago projects or held little use beforehand.
Most of the garden will be raised beds. They will however try direct planting in parts of the garden area — though Brown acknowledges downtown Greenville’s gopher problem might get in the way.
The garden has, at its current size, sustained itself. According to Brown, the garden brings in $4,000 a year between plant and seedling sales in the spring for local gardeners and produce sales.
This year, Brown plans to sell the organic garden’s produce through Quincy Natural Foods. A late harvest will also ensure that the garden feeds student meal programs in the fall.
Brown hopes to see the program grow and for his part wishes a program like this had been available when he was a teenager.
It’s hoped that a program with hands-on learning experiences will give the student a vocation to bring into their adult life.