Lincoln Students Growing Life Skills, Community, and Lots of Plants Too!

It was a privilege to visit Lincoln High's farm, Abe’s Golden Acres, and interview the students while they wrapped up their afternoon exactly one week ahead of the Lincoln HS Plant Sale. Now, we’re even more excited about the LHS plant sale than we’ve ever been. Yes, the plants are looking good and we can’t wait to come home with those tomatoes, but the real excitement comes from meeting the young men and women working hands-on and hearts-open growing community along with greens. We’ve been shopping at the plant sale for the past couple of years because we wanted to support the school, the work of the students, and our friend Kale Iverson who is one of the teachers leading the program. Also, we love the plants. It’s been a source for Mother’s Day gifts, for excellent tomato starts, pineapple sage, bright geraniums, and salvia (one of our favorite perennials). We encourage you to support the farm, the students, and the sale, but through this story hope to enrich your idea of the value of Abe's Golden Acres and the plant sale in our community and in the lives of the student farmers. 

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The Lincoln High School Plant Sale
at Abe's Golden Acres 
3600 S G St
May 2 - 4, Wed - Fri: 3:30 pm - 7 pm
May 5 - 6, Sat - Sun*: 8:30 am - 6:30 pm
*Sunday only if supplies last!

The students working in the farm and greenhouses to prepare for the annual plant sale are enrolled in Plant Biology. But Iverson (as the kids call him) says it’s just as much business class as science class. And the students declare they’re “family,” saying “we watch out for each other.” Talking with a group of 15 or so Plant Biology students in the sunshine outside the greenhouses on a very glorious afternoon energized us because they were so full of ideas and responses, so ready to communicate, to rattle off plant names, so engaged even at the very end of a late April school day. 

 Plant Biology students heading out of the greenhouse for home. 

Plant Biology students heading out of the greenhouse for home. 

Some of the students sat on benches near a big garden plot, but most didn’t sit still for long, bouncing up to answer a question we asked, moving to hear each other, backing off when they were done or figured the 6 energetic answers we were receiving at once were probably enough. Iverson stood close by in case the students needed prompting but soon said. "You're in good hands." He was right.  

We watch out for each other.
— LHS Student Farmer
 Student Farmers Favorites at Abe’s Golden Acres: Chocolate mint Strawberry Kale Blueberries Hastas Oregano Flowers Snapdragons Fuchsias Salvia (3 kinds!)

Student Farmers Favorites at Abe’s Golden Acres:
Chocolate mint
Strawberry
Kale
Blueberries
Hastas
Oregano
Flowers
Snapdragons
Fuchsias
Salvia (3 kinds!)

Students take Plant Biology at the greenhouses for a variety of reasons ranging from a desire to just do something hands-on, to learn about landscaping and gardening, or because they get to be outside moving around rather than sitting in class. One young man plans to take the landscaping skills he’s learned at Abe’s Golden Acres into work beyond school. Other students feel empowered to grow their own gardens at home, noting that it could be hard sometimes to access local, fresh food. They talked about a documentary focusing on the scarcity of fresh produce in urban areas and seemed to feel they can do, and are doing, something about that.  

Once they’re part of it, the value of the class and community grows. They learn how to grow plants they didn’t even know existed, or didn’t know the names of before, and assured me the plants like listening to 2Pac. Even after the students left for home Iverson corroborated this telling us “'Changes' is our jam in the perennials section.” Why not? 

 Mr. Iverson and a group of Plant Biology Students in the east greenhouse at Abe's Golden Acres. 

Mr. Iverson and a group of Plant Biology Students in the east greenhouse at Abe's Golden Acres. 

And what’s not to like when you hear about Tacoma city teenagers learning to grow greens, tomatoes, herbs, and fuchsias? But it’s even better than that. We asked a group of them what’s best about working at Abe’s Golden Acres. The students called out answers readily:

  • Making friends
  • We’re close (at this point my heart melted while students hugged each other)
  • No drama
  • We’re just doing our work and it’s going nicely
  • There's a better vibe in the greenhouse
 Plant Sale Pricing Preview

Plant Sale Pricing Preview

This sounds like the kind of space everyone needs in life; the place where you’re working, and the work is giving back, filling you up. And what a perfect way to create space in the mind for all the other activities and subjects of the school day. Don’t get the idea that this is just a laid back time to unwind though. Raising plants and maintaining greenhouses is work. Not to mention the frenzy when 4,000 plant starts arrive within 3 weeks and all need you at once! 

It’s okay to touch dirt now!
— LHS Student Farmer
 One more bright geranium photo, but don't be fooled by all the flowers. There are so many veggies and herbs to see and bring home too!

One more bright geranium photo, but don't be fooled by all the flowers. There are so many veggies and herbs to see and bring home too!

During our visit it was clear that Plant Biology goes beyond raising plants for the sale, learning about plant varieties and what they need, or having a safe community to decompress with at the end of the day. When asked what they want us to know about the experience, the students talked about giving back to the community with produce donations and the free summer farm stand that brings fresh produce to the heart of the Lincoln District. They talked about being outside and interacting (don’t be too quick to assume teens just want to sit around with smartphones). I loved it when one student called out “It’s okay to touch dirt now!” Yes! 

 Kale Iverson wrapping up with some watering of the outdoor pots after his students left for the day. 

Kale Iverson wrapping up with some watering of the outdoor pots after his students left for the day. 

Iverson is passionate about farming (fresh food as a civil right!). He’s four years in at Lincoln High and comes from Stewart Middle School where he was active in the community garden and still remembers donating 500 lbs of fresh produce to a battered women’s shelter. As an educator at Lincoln, he’s clearly motivated by the positive practical impact Abe’s Golden Acres and the Plant Sale have in the lives of his students. “They’re part of a project that’s run like a real business with real money and it improves the neighborhood. They get an amazing resume. Students can say they worked at a nursery and urban farm as a planting lead…” He added that students leave the class able to assess “Am I a good employee or not?” 

 Snapdragons getting some love in the west greenhouse. 

Snapdragons getting some love in the west greenhouse. 

Iverson thinks people come out to the LHS Plant Sale because their veggie starts do well, but he really values the plant sale for the different perspective it gives the community about who Lincoln High is. Some of us might know it for its sports and the Lincoln bowl, others might have no experience of this school at all. But if you come for the plant sale Iverson bets his students will “talk your ear off about plants and what they like about it here.” That was absolutely our experience. Even as we left the farm and stood out on the sidewalk, a bunch of students down the street called out "Come to the plant sale!"

The takeaway: Don't miss the Lincoln High School Plant Sale and think twice, or three times, before you think you already know about the kids in our city; they might surprise you. 

 You can't miss it. The students already have banners, bunting, and sandwich boards out to make sure you know they're ready for you. 

You can't miss it. The students already have banners, bunting, and sandwich boards out to make sure you know they're ready for you. 


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