Geraniums, Lantana and Cortyline, as well as Grandiflora pink and purple roses, and all kinds of shrubs — and FFA sweatshirts and T-shirts are all available for purchase at the Monache High School Agriculture Department’s Second Annual Fall Harvest Festival — a place where one can get everything from succulents and shrubs, to roses and pumpkins.
Free farm tours are also available during the sale, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Friday.
Lori Hernandez shopped Wednesday at the Fall Festival.
“It’s my first time. My friend’s daughter comes here and she told me about it,” Hernandez said. “I’m here for the succulents. They are very well taken care of and they’re a great price.”
Claude Aliten also shopped at the Fall Harvest Festival for the first time.
“It’s my first time too. I had heard about it in the past but I was always working. Today I only have an online class this afternoon so I came out,” Aliten said. “I love it and the prices are good and there’s lots of variety.”
On hand to answer questions was MHS senior Kadin Wheeless who's also a teacher’s aide in agricultural mechanic.
Wheeless offered a tour around the different green houses, including one that houses all cacti.
“We buy them from the nursery as spouts in a 1-inch pots. Students come out and start transplanting them,” he said as he pointed out several varieties.
In addition, he said, pointing to some bigger plants, former ag members and ag boosters who support FFA, also donated some of the plants. Perennials and annuals at the sale range from those in a half gallon to 15 gallon pots.
“Once they grow we move them to 2 inch starter pots to get a good root system going, then to Azalea pots or the one gallon. The plant determines what pot we use,” Wheeless said.
Succulents and designer bowls from the horticulture class were in another greenhouse.
“Every student in the horticulture class will get two to three of these every day to work on them,” Wheeless said. “They design them and prune them. It’s an art element. They also get to choose their own plants. If they are not sold here during the Fall Harvest Festival, or in March during our Spring sale, then they get entered into the Porterville Fair.”
Sometimes, one to three students work together on one bowl, he said, and if they sell it, they can keep the profits to go towards their next project, or they can offer it to another member’s project.
Many of the small succulents came about because of the pandemic, Wheeless said.
“They’re drought resistant so it makes it the perfect thing to grow during that time,” he said. “Right now is the ideal time to plant and start these. But 98 percent of these were planted during the summer, which is not an ideal time. But they are doing great.”
Princessa Ceballos, MHS FFA Chapter President, was also offering tours.
She talked about the Shade House which is taken care of by students, including summer and winter interns.
“These plants are kept outside but need shade,” Ceballos said.
General maintenance includes removing dead leaves and transplanting them as they grow, along with new shipments, to proper-size containers.
The raised garden beds are currently dormant, she said.
“In a couple of months, these four on the end will hold our Tulips for Farmers Day,” Ceballos said. “Others will have onions and garlic. This is the freshman class project. It all gets harvested for Farmers Day.”
Lining one side of the raised flower beds are pomegranate and peach trees.
Ceballos also talked about the poultry pen, the swine unit, the lamb and goat unit, and the large plot where David Romero planted all the pumpkins.
“David grew them from seed in the green house. He got the seedlings and planted them,” she said.
And while they grew, he put in irrigation, then replanted the pumpkins while making sure he had quite the variety of them.
“In the upcoming month we are planting broccoli, cauliflower and different varieties,” Ceballos said. “The sophomore kicked it off by disking it, making the rows, irrigation and with the planting.”
But students in all grades plant, weed and help take care of the plants.
Ceballos also pointed out the grape vines along the fence, which is cared for by advisors.
“We also have a vine-pruning team,” she said. “It’s a learning area. They have competitions on it.”
The Monache citrus grove, she said, has numerous varieties of citrus, including lemons, pomelos, cara cara, navels, and grapefruit.
In addition, the farm has an area that's made into a show ring once it gets closer to fair time to help students get a sense of what to expect at the fair while showing their project animal.
“Families and little kids like coming out and seeing the tour,” said Christie Bennett, MHS ag instructor and advisor. “We really want the community to come out. I would love to see as much of the community as possible out here.”
This year, in addition to the tours and all the plants, the Ag department also has a pumpkin sale.
“They were all raised by one student,” said Bennett. “It was a sporadic project during the pandemic. He asked for an extra project for 2020. And now this year, it is better spaced out and he is getting all of the profits from this and he will use them for college.”
The student, Romero, is a senior who will be heading to Cal Poly Saun Luis Obispo next year to major in agriculture while working on his third and state FFA degrees.
Students from all class periods help work the plant sale, Bennett said.
Craig Martin of Porterville said he had moved away to the East Coast and was finally back after 25 years.
“I just moved back and getting my house in order,” he said. “I saw the ad on Facebook and came to check it out. I think for this time of year, it’s pretty good. Not bad at all.”
Martin talked with Bennett about the Bulbine shrub he was purchasing.
Sarah Galpin held her 21-month old son while pulling a cart which she was loading with a variety of succulents.
“I come to the Spring sale — such good deals and plants. I always have to make my way back here every year,” she said. “I’m big into succulents and they have a large variety and really good prices.”
Galpin said her whole family is in 4H or FFA, and her young son loves helping her in the back yard.
Monache High School is located at 960 W. Newcomb St. between Henderson and W. Mulberry avenues. The FFA sale entrance is through Mulberry, through the blue gates. Parking is available on the south side of W. Mulberry Avenue.
“We say we close at 4 p.m. but if there are people out here, we will stay open as long as they are here,” said Bennett. “It’s been great so far.”