SYCAMORE, Ill. — Sycamore High School students have been
selling perennial and annual plants from the school’s greenhouse for many
“Our FFA alumni group built this greenhouse in the late
‘70s,” said Kara Poynter, ag instructor and FFA adviser at Sycamore High School.
“This year, I wrote a grant to the Sycamore Education Foundation for the
concrete floor in the greenhouse, which has made a world of difference.”
The plant sale is held for two weeks each year in May, and
it is organized by the students in the horticulture class and the Sycamore FFA
“The whole idea is not to make lots of money, but to provide
plants to the community at a reasonable cost and to give our students a learning
experience,” Poynter explained. “The sale includes about 15 kinds of annuals, 10
to 12 different perennials, as well as tomatoes, peppers and herbs.”
The proceeds from the plant sale go right back into the
program to purchase supplies for the next year’s sale.
“We start working on the sale during the second week of
February by planting plugs,” said Poynter, who has taught at Sycamore for the
past six years. “We also start some of the plants from seed.”
Last year, Autumn Salis helped with the plant sale, and this
year she enrolled in the horticulture class.
“We have plant ID quizzes every week,” said the high school
junior who recently was elected to serve as the chapter’s president for the
second year. “We learn which plants are best for sun or shade, and that helps
when customers come in and ask questions.”
Salis decided to enroll in the horticulture class because
she is considering a college degree in agricultural education.
“I’m an animal science girl, so I wanted a well-balanced ag
experience in high school,” she said.
For her FFA projects, Salis raises 100 hens and sells the
eggs and she also works at a hog operation.
Students can take horticulture classes all four years at
“I teach greenhouse production, floral design, landscaping
and vegetables,” Poynter said. “We recently took a field trip to the Japanese
Gardens in Rockford, and the kids were identifying plants there.”
“I really enjoy working in the greenhouse,” said Joseph
Graham, a junior who has enrolled in the horticulture class for two years. “My
long-term goal is to be a landscape designer.”
Sophomore student Sam Sauber is taking horticulture for the
second year, after one of his fellow students convinced him to enroll.
“I like being outside. I don’t like to sit in a chair all
day,” he noted.
“Sam has probably worked in the greenhouse the most,” the ag
instructor said. “He has been working in the greenhouse during his study hall
In addition, Sauber volunteered to help with the plant sale
on Mother’s Day.
“That was really helpful to have someone there that I could
trust while I spent some time with my family,” Poynter said.
Sauber is raising chickens this year for his FFA project,
and he was elected to serve as the FFA chapter reporter for the upcoming year.
“I was able to bring my chickens in for the petting zoo
during National FFA Week,” he noted.
Christian Thurwanger is graduating from Sycamore High School
this year and currently is serving as the Section 6 FFA president.
“As president, I’ve spent a lot of time promoting the FFA
name through various means, like state convention and leadership camp,” he said.
“At leadership camp, I was responsible for a group of students to lead them in
activities to help then become better leaders.”
Thurwanger helped to organize the section banquet, kickoff
party and leadership training school.
“During the leadership training school, we had the section
officer team do a workshop and members of the collegiate FFA chapter at Illinois
State University do workshops,” the FFA member said. “I also started reflections
this year at the leadership training school.”
This fall, Thurwanger will be attending Western Illinois
University to major in agricultural education and possibly a pre-law minor.
“Hopefully, I can teach ag in this area,” he said.
“It would be great if Christian would become the second
teacher at Sycamore,” his FFA adviser added.
In addition, the FFA member would love to be involved with
his family farm.
“My family raises 17,000 hogs a year, and we grow wheat,
corn and soybeans,” he said. “My FFA project is swine production
Thurwanger buys and raises hogs and competes in hog shows
during the summer.
“I’m a fair hopper. I go to seven or eight shows a year,” he
said. “I’ve never had a real summer vacation, but I’m OK with that.”
Poynter is grateful to receive great support for the program
at Sycamore from both the school’s administration and FFA alumni association.
“I started a new class this year called Ag Academy, and kids
received college and high school credit for it,” the ag instructor said. “This
class looked at all sectors of the ag industry, and we toured ag businesses like
Elburn Co-op, the Chicago Board of Trade and the John Deere factory.”
During the visits, the students learned from various
business representatives what the companies are looking for in employees.
“These visits were designed to help the kids make decisions
for college,” Poynter explained.
“The FFA alumni group is a huge support system for our
school,” the FFA adviser stressed. “They help pay for FFA jackets, so the kids
only pay $15, they are paying for Autumn to go to Washington Leadership
Conference this year and they present senior scholarships.”