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Stayner high school garden program grows 10,000 plants to sell

Stayner Collegiate Institute will be running annual Plant Sale on May 15 where proceeds from sales will support school’s Green Industries program
2022-05-12 Wheatcroft JO-002
Mike Wheatcroft, teacher at Stayner Collegiate Institute, runs the school's Green Industries programming.

Plant it. Grow it. Eat it.

That’s the mantra behind an innovative school program at Stayner Collegiate Institute that will be running their annual Plant Sale on Sunday, May 15. About 10,000 plants grown in the school’s 1,500-square-foot greenhouse including vegetables, herbs, perennials, annuals and houseplants will be up for grabs, with all the proceeds from the sale going back into their Green Industries program.

Mike Wheatcroft, a Collingwood native and technology teacher at Stayner Collegiate Institute, has overseen the Green Industries program for the past eight years since leaving a career in landscaping architecture. He turned to teaching to get back out into the garden.

“I didn’t enjoy sitting at a desk designing everyday,” he said. “Whenever I was around young people and teaching, I enjoyed it. So I thought I should be a teacher.”

His unique skill set meant he was able to spearhead the Green Industries program, which is one of two total greenhouse programs within the Simcoe County District School Board.

The program has both junior and senior classes, where students are taught horticulture, agriculture, floristry, forestry and landscaping skills. There are between 60 and 80 students in different classes that work in the greenhouse in any given semester. He says he works to impress upon students the importance of food security.

“Right now, it’s really popular to have vegetable gardens. With the cost of food skyrocketing, it’s a big trend to grow your own food. This course allows students to experience that hands-on,” he said.

Over the last eight years, Wheatcroft said there are some students who take a shine to the work.

“There are a few students that really latch onto it. They love being in the greenhouses, tending to the plants and watching them grow,” he said. “We’ve had lots of students graduate and go into agricultural classes or degrees.”

The plants for sale on Sunday are grown through the program include vegetable plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. There are multiple different herbs, annuals, perennials, houseplants and hanging baskets.

“The funding goes right back into the students,” said Wheatcroft. “This is very rewarding. It recharges my batteries when I know there are students that enjoy it.”

If you’re looking to spruce up your garden, the Plant Sale will be taking place at Stayner Collegiate Institute on May 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., cash only.