The Brightside: A+ Garden
SALISBURY, Md. – From herbs, to flowers, to vegetables, there’s tons you can find at the A+ at Parkside high school. But none of it would be possible without the students doing all that work.
“The A+ garden is a student run business, it’s actually the largest in the United States for public school operations,” Jerry Kelley, an horticulture teacher at Parkside, said.
His favorite part of his job is watching his students bloom.
“It’s inspiring for me to see that they work as a group, we work as a team just like in any other business,” he said.
Students do everything from planting the seeds to caring for the plants and herbs, even marketing them and selling them.
“Right now we’ll do some pesticide chapters to get our applicator license, and then we’ll do some work out in the greenhouse, but all the time we’re working with customers,” Allison Tribeck, one of the students, said.
While the students do the heavy lifting themselves, they aren’t doing it alone.
“We have so many people from the community that add their expertise, like Miss Henriette,” Jerry said.
Henriette Den Ouden is a herbalist in Wicomico County who loves sharing her expertise, especially around teas. She even led the students in a tea-making competition where they did everything from mixing the herbs to creating labels for the tea.
“The one that won was much more of a sweeter tea than I would make, but the good thing about it is the students really like it, it’s healthy, there’s no sugar in it, so you get a nice balance, it’s really a very nice tea,” she said.
But teas are just a small sample of what customers can find and buy at the garden. The money made then going right back into the garden, giving students more opportunities to grow.
“We grow year-round, so we’re growing in the fall mums and pansies, and then in the winter we grow poinsettias, and then in the spring that is when everything is blooming and ready,” Jerry said.
For the students, a sale is just the final step in a journey of watching a small seed grow into something living and beautiful.
“When I walk into a greenhouse and everything is blooming, it makes it feel at home, because everything that’s in there that has grown since it was little, it just makes you feel proud of what you’ve done,” Zoey Bradley, one of the students, said.
But like the plants, students will eventually graduate and leave Parkside High and the garden. Jerry says he just hopes some of them come back to their roots.
“They work together, each one brings their strengths to the operation, so then to see them get involved and move on to either post-secondary studies or in the industry right away is really gratifying,” he said.
If you’re interested in stopping by the garden, they’re open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and then 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturdays. To find the garden, just head over to Parkside and look for the 3 greenhouses.