DOWNS -- Tri-Valley High School junior Shelby Cooper isn't sure what career she wants to pursue, but she has new options since joining FFA and taking a horticulture class.
"Being an ag teacher is in the back of my mind," Cooper said.
She enjoys all of her classes, but her favorite places to be are in horticulture class and its greenhouse. "I like the atmosphere," Cooper said. "It's peaceful and colorful."
She's not alone. "I might have problems engaging some kids in the classroom, but out here everyone works," said Tri-Valley agriculture teacher Kristin Myers.
"I look at our greenhouse as an extension of the classroom," said Betsy Pech, who teaches agriculture classes at Hartsburg-Emden High School.
"It's the best place to be in the world," Pech said. "It brightens up your day."
Students at both schools spend a lot of time in their greenhouses in the spring, preparing plants for sale at their annual greenhouse sales, which benefit FFA programs and keep the greenhouses running.
Even students who don't plan on pursuing a career in agriculture gain valuable experience from the ag classes, said Myers. For example, students gain hands-on experience in running a business and making decisions, such as which new varieties of plants to sell.
The timing of the planting of perennials in October and keeping already blooming plants looking good for sale time are among the other challenges that Myers and her students face.
Insects can be a problem, too, so this year, students are learning a biological approach to pest control. Praying mantises and ladybugs have been purchased to help keep the plants healthy.
Pech said the Hartem greenhouse helps students decide whether they want a career in horticulture. "It's very labor intensive," she said.