May 10, 2010
Pots of different sizes hung from overhead rails. Blooming plants cascaded over their sides. No hardboard ceiling here, no drop lighting frames and plastic diffusers either, rather green leafy tendrils with yellow flowers, red flowers, pink flowers, and white flowers fill overhead space. Belinda and I entered the Wapato High School greenhouse and found in this broad, but confined landscape, students busy preparing for a full day of customers who would look and touch and pick through hundreds of plants they had nurtured and grown from seed over the course of the last semester.
A greenhouse landscape is like no other. Over the years we have been blessed to spend time in many in the lower Yakima valley. From White Swan High School to the RicOrganic Co-Op, each greenhouse is a little different. They speak their own dialect and tell their own story. Some are landscapes of plants spread across tables while other has plants growing directly out of the soil under foot. Some are full of flowers and bushes and trees while others are focused on one singular type of plant. Some are in backyards where one or two people are the only to enter the space while others are large with people coming, going, and interacting with plants day in and day out. The latter is the landscape of the Wapato greenhouse. But more.
We arrived early in the day. When we entered young women and men met us. Some were watering, others building an inventory of boxes, others still were moving plants around, all were full of energy telling us part of their greenhouse story in word and deed. Those stacking boxes ask if we would like a box to put the plants in, for surely we must want to buy a dozen or better! We hardly had found and placed a few plants in our first box when women with cameras stopped and asked if they could take our picture. We said yes, but with a caveat. We would like to take their picture as well! The surprise on their faces said few folk ask if they might take their picture during the annual plant sale. After a little coaxing, some laughter, a blush here and there, we all stood together and took photos of one another!
More years than not the annual plant sales at the local high schools are a lifesaver. Unlike our neighbors at RicOrganics we too often have not started our garden seedlings when we should have. Thanks to wonderful, healthy, agriculture programs—such as that at Wapato H.S.—we have the good fortune to attain vegetable and flower seedlings while knowing our food is tied to the wellbeing of community because teachers have helped our youth become more intricately tied the betterment of our communities soil, water, air, and plants.
The landscape of high school greenhouses really are like no other. Greenhouses are a “web” place, a place where all that is within their walls enter into a unique relationship. Teachers and youth, plant and human, water and air, neighbors and students, cannot be within this space and not be affected by the other. In many ways the wellbeing of one is the wellbeing of all. And that sense of wellbeing beyond the greenhouse structure as well. For each plant that leaves its world of birth and is given home in another place reminds the transplanter, each time they observe a flower or eat a tomato, of the day the met a house full of young folk caring for plant, place, and community.
© David B. Bell 2010