Guest post by Anna Babione
In the beginning of the year, Mr. Ahrens introduced the idea of growing our own plants from seed to replace the invasive species on Florida’s beautiful coast. At first, I was not sure if we could do it – we had not used Hernando High School’s greenhouse in years and the water system was in need of repair. I remember one day as we were working in the greenhouse, one of the irrigation pipes broke and water began spraying everywhere. We immediately had to shut the system down and fix it. Not long after that, Hurricane Irma arrived and blew half of the roof off the greenhouse. Luckily, we had not planted the seeds or started any propagation yet.
With the roof and irrigation finally fixed a few months later, we started planting and dividing plants. We worked every day during class, and students would sometimes come during free periods or after school to make sure the plants were getting fertilized and watered properly. After we started the seeds and plants, I was amazed at how quickly everything started to grow. Soon we were filling more pots with soil to make room for the cuttings we made. I learned so much about the responsibility growing plants took. Every single day without fail, we had to work in the greenhouse to make sure everything was growing properly.
Finally, the day came to take all the plants we had grown to the parks near the coast. That morning the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Office and volunteers removed the invasive plants and the sites were now ready for our native plants for installation. It was sunny as we were driving to the shore; however, after we planted only twenty plants at Linda Pedersen Park,a torrential downpour started. Rather than quitting and running under shelter, we kept planting. We were all so excited for opportunity we had to make a difference for our coast! We worked hard for hours planting each individual plant.
Of all the projects we have done through the FFA, this is by far the coolest project. We grew our own plants, facing all sorts of setbacks from a missing roof to water spraying everywhere. Against those odds, we learned the importance of enduring to the end. We could have given up when some of the seeds did not grow. When it started raining, we kept planting. On top of all the fun we had every day in the greenhouse, we were able to do something that had an impact on our community. We were able to help restore the beautiful coastline of Hernando County.