Decorating for the holidays? Need a host gift for a party? Consider giving back to FIU at the same time by purchasing a poinsettia grown by agroecology students.
The second annual poinsettia sale marks the culmination of a semester-long project in Amir Khoddamzadeh’s horticulture course and lab, which takes students through the complete process of planting, cultivating and selling crops.
The hands-on course, offered by the School of Environment, Arts & Society‘s Agroecology Program, teaches students how to run a nursery, a major industry in South Florida and a growing one nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We are in a hotspot of nursery production,” Khoddamzadeh said.
The students set out in August to grow 500 poinsettia plants in the Department of Biological Science’s greenhouse, with help tending the plants from FIU’s Garden Club. Poinsettias’ short growth period allows students to follow the cultivation process from start to finish in just one semester.
Throughout the process, they learned important plant propagation techniques necessary for their trade, including pruning and soil composition; and then they learned to sell their product on campus and at the Redlands farmers market.
“They get to see how hard it is selling your product,” Khoddamzadeh said. “It’s important to actually implement what we study in class into the farm, the field and the greenhouse. You need to feel the soil and the plants to learn things. Without hands-on skills, it would be very difficult to find a job in this field.”
Despite the difficulties of “growing a business,” the students sold half their crop to the local community. FIU Facilities then bought 120 plants to decorate the president’s house for the holidays and for the commencement ceremonies next week.
To purchase one of the remaining poinsettias, contact Eric Betancourt at 305-282-3997. The plants cost $7 each, or $5 each for orders of 10 or more.
Proceeds will benefit a fund to send agroecology students on a study abroad trip to Europe next year to participate in a series of workshops about their trade. A portion of the money raised will also benefit FIU’s organic garden.