Wenatchee FFA Plant Sale: an Opportunity for the Public, a Horticultural and Business Learning Experience for the Students

Wenatchee FFA Plant Sale: an Opportunity for the Public, a Horticultural and Business Learning Experience for the Students

It’s almost FFA Plant Sale time, which means spring is officially here. The Wenatchee High School FFA Plant Sale will open to the public on Thursday and Friday, May 3 and 4, from 10 AM to 6 PM, and Saturday May 5 from 8AM to 1PM. The sale will be located at the greenhouses behind WHS. Horticulture classes have been working hard for the last couple of months getting ready for the sale.

“We have the two horticulture classes, and they grow the plants,” says agriculture teacher Dan Ellwood. The students have planted tens of thousand of plants. “Now we're focusing on marketing.”

Wenatchee FFA Plant Sale: an Opportunity for the Public, a Horticultural and Business Learning Experience for the Students

Horticulture students Natalie Hennigan and Ailea Nielson stand among the tens of thousands of plants that they and the other horticulture students planted, including 425 hanging baskets.

“We've been planting different edible plants, different just decorative plants, and we've been working a lot on marketing,” says senior Ailea Nielson  “We’ve learned how to make posters and make big banners for advertising, and how to get the word out about what we're doing. So that's been really interesting and educational too.”

“My favorite has definitely been planting the plants in the greenhouse,” says sophomore Natalie Hennigan, who took the class after working with her grandmother in her garden, where she developed an interest in plants. “It's been an amazing experience working with all the people and finding new relationships with the people and the plants.”

Students planted tens of thousands of flowers, including petunias, marigolds, zinnias, and, new this year, hypoestes and gaillardia. Many of those flowers are included in 425 hanging baskets. Vegetables and fruit plants include tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Ellwood emphasises that the students are learning how to run a business. “We know that 7 out of 10 small business fail in the first three years,” he says. “Our business has increased sales for 18 straight years. We use the continuous improvement process.” 

In order to improve sales each year, Ellwood says the agriculture students look at each plant, each product, and see how well it sold. They’ll decide whether or not to include that plant in the next year’s inventory. “We have to eliminate some and in order to bring something new in. We have to pick out the weakest performers and pull them out,” says Ellwood. “Fashion changes, even colors as they change. Yellow is the hot color now. Ten years ago, you couldn't give yellow away.”

The goal of the sale is to retail about $1,000 an hour during the sale, for a total of $30,000. The money pays for the cost of the entire operation, and pays the students for their labor. “First thing is we pay back our bills because we borrow the money from the FFA,” says Ellwood. “It usually costs us about $15,000. We run a co-op, so after we pay our bills, the kids in the class will get one share of the profits paid for every hour they put in.”

“I think we have a very, very nice crop this year. It's one of the better crops we've ever had. Everything has just come together,” says Ellwood. 

“It's definitely worth the trip, even if you're not planning on buying anything,” says Natalie Hennigan. “Come to see all the varieties of plants we have.”