At the Wilderness Charter School rows of plant starts have been growing steadily for months under the students' and teacher's care in preparation for the school's annual plant sale.




The sale takes place today from — to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to — p.m., at 60 Morse St. Organically grown vegetable, herb, flower and strawberry starts will be available just in time for planting season and Mother's Day. Students and teachers will also offer tips for success. The sale is held to raise funds for classroom programs and inspire others to jump into the fun and rewarding experience of growing food.




A Growing Tradition




Founded in 1996 as one of Ashland High's alternative programs, the school's curriculum focuses on sustainability, wilderness and nature experiences, building harmonious people-planet relationships and working in community. Students study and practice ecological concepts such as permaculture, bioregional ecology, wilderness skills, natural building, growing food organically, forestry, renewable energy, resource conservation and alternative transportation.




The classroom is a living laboratory for building sustainable community, encompassing a straw bale building with solar panels, a rainwater catchment system, several food and perennial gardens, fruit trees and a greenhouse.




The curriculum ensures each of the 22 juniors and seniors earn science, English and elective credits working with teachers Jim Haim, Katie Holden and Kendall Cassidy. They can also complete internships in the on-site gardens or related projects. Students attend other high school courses to fulfill remaining requirements. Learning goes beyond classroom lectures and discussions to include guest speakers from related professions, field experiences, monthly planting days and a two-week backpacking trip at the beginning and end of the school year.




Sharing the Seeds




The students began starting plants from seed in the school's greenhouse in March, says Cassidy.




In each step, students and teachers worked to follow the ecological principles that lie at the heart of the school's mission. Haim reached out to community members to get planting pots and trays donated. The plants include many heirloom varietals, most grown from seeds that were donated or harvested from last year's garden. Teachers plan to incorporate additional permaculture principles each year, such as increasing the amount of seed that is saved from one year's harvest and passed on to the next class.




"This really brings it full circle even more," says Cassidy.




Cassidy says that preparing for the plant sale and working in the school's gardens is a transformative experience for students and those they know.




"This is the first time a lot of the students have planted seeds. This gets them more involved in growing their own food and it has an effect on family and friends. A lot of the students start gardening at home. Many of them take home produce from the garden."




Students and teachers look forward to welcoming community members to support their programs and enjoy wonders of gardening at home. Garden favorites for sale include heirloom tomatoes (Zapotec pleated, Marvel striped, Crimson sprinter), Prize of the Trials cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot chili peppers, artichokes, eggplant (Black beauty, Turkish orange) Mideast Prolific cucumbers basil, dill, clotted mint and strawberries. Annual flowers that attract beneficial bugs, will also be available.




To preorder plants contact the Wilderness Charter School at wcs@ashland.k12.or.us or 482-5520.