Johnston, SC – It may be a wet and at times chilly month of January, but students of the Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) Program are hard at work cutting root saplings to fulfill a contract with local grower ArborGen Taylor Nursery and preparing for the program’s popular annual Spring Plant Sale.
“We contract grow about 20,000 cypress tree saplings, used for Christmas trees and borders on fence lines, and what we’ve been doing is called a rooted cutting where we bring the cuttings from the tree farm here to process them,” stated STCTC Future Farmers of America Program Instructor Jacob Laughlin.
Students have spent the past two weeks cutting or wounding the bark of the saplings and planting them in small trays filled with soil and compounds that aid in the growth process. Once the saplings have taken root around May, students will then transport them back to ArborGen as small trees ready for sale.
“We use the funds from the sale of the trees to buy new equipment and travel for competitions,” Laughlin added.
Laughlin and the students are also potting around 15,000 bedding plants that will continue to grow ahead of the program’s popular Spring Plant Sale, scheduled for Saturday, March 18, 2023.
James Drafts, a senior student at the Strom Thurmond Career and Technology Center, says the work offers he and his fellow students a unique view of real-world business practices while also developing skills that may be utilized in the agricultural industry after high school.
“You just see how you can take the cuttings from one tree and then turn them into something a lot more profitable,” stated James. “When you think about planting 20,000 trees, that’s a lot. I really want to be a completer in this program and have that cord around my neck at graduation.”
While he’s not sure of his future plans after graduation, James says he knows the FFA Program at the Strom Thurmond Career & Technology Center is preparing him for whatever path he does choose.
“All of this just puts experience under your belt and you just need it,” added James. “Even if you’re not planning on having a job in agriculture, experience still matters.”