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Groups raise funds with holiday plants
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- School organizations, scouts and churches are among the groups that have found holiday plants make great fund raisers, and in some cases, excellent learning opportunities as well.
Richard Harkess, professor of plant and soil sciences at Mississippi State University, said the student horticulture club holds several plant sales during the year to raise money to travel to regional and national meetings. Any additional funds go into community service projects for the club.
“On Dec. 3, they will sell almost 40 varieties of poinsettias that are grown by the students and others from the research trials at MSU,” he said. “The students also buy plants, such as Christmas cactus and Amaryllis bulbs, for the holiday sale.”
Harkess said the sales throughout the year provide students with experience in marketing and growing plants.
“Students learn the importance of timing, so that the plants will be at their peak when needed. They also order seed and take care of the plants while they are growing,” he said. “A lot goes into scheduling, caring for and selling these plants.”
Palmer Home for Children in Columbus raises 3,500 red poinsettias to sell during the holidays, and residents are active in the production and sale of the plants.
Mary Tuggle, poinsettia growth coordinator at Palmer Home, said all ages get involved in the plant production.
“Our youngest children help put the soil in pots and start the plants in three of our greenhouses in mid-August,” she said. “Professionals handle any chemicals needed by the plants, but then older youth get involved in adjusting the light and temperature to help the plants become colorful in time for the holidays.”
Tuggle said growing plants is ideal for teaching young people responsibility. The jobs also give the youth opportunities to earn a little spending money for the holidays.
“During the process, we need eight to 10 children to tend the plants in 12 greenhouses every morning at 5:30 and again at 5:30 each evening. It takes dedication to get up that early,” she said. “The younger kids enjoy getting dirty, and the older kids enjoy watching the colors develop. The next job for them is to wrap the plants in foil and get them ready to ship.”
The youth at First United Methodist Church in Saltillo are selling Christmas trees this year. They plan to use the money they raise to buy gifts for residents in a local children’s home.
“This is our first year to sell Christmas trees as a fund-raiser, so it’s too early to know just how successful it will be,” said Bill Smith, the church’s youth minister and owner of Smith’s Nursery. “I haven’t sold Christmas trees at the nursery either, so it should be very educational.”
Smith will be picking up 250 Fraser firs in a variety of sizes from a grower in North Carolina.
“The youth are taking orders for 7-8 foot trees and 9-10 foot trees. They will get 75 percent of the profits,” he said. “Whatever they don’t sell, I’ll have at my nursery in downtown Saltillo.”
Girl Scout troop leader Amy Chatham of Hernando worked with her girls last year to sell trees and poinsettias to fund a trip to New York City. She acquired both through a broker, instead of raising the plants themselves or purchasing directly from a grower.
“The Christmas trees were very labor-intensive to sell, but the poinsettias just sold themselves, so we are selling only them this year,” she said. “The profit margin is better with poinsettias than with trees, too.”
Last year, Chatham’s troop of 11 middle school girls sold 300 red, white, pink, burgundy and peppermint-colored varieties, all in 6 inch pots with green foil.