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Students grow organic at Belle Isle Conservatory

2012 Golightly Community Garden Day COURTESY PHOTO

2012 Golightly Community Garden Day COURTESY PHOTO

By F. Carlton Peeples
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Golightly Career and Technical Center Agriscience program is continuing a tradition that began over 30 years ago. Since 1981, students at the Detroit Public School have sold plants at the Belle Isle Conservatory. This year, Golightly students will hold a plant sale May 18-19 and a Community Garden Day May 21.

The Golightly students belong to the National FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America), which supports its members as part of the schools Career Tech youth training program.

The workshop’s focus is largely on techniques for organic growing, storage/canning/freezing and recipes for kitchen garden foods as well as workshops on health and nutrition.

Breaking away from the traditional Votech, Ellen Morro and Re’nee Bryant, both with backgrounds as florists, joined the team at Golightly and have been instrumental in the program’s transformation. “There are careers emerging from this type of training,” said Morro. “They range from minimum wage to (six figure) salaries.”

The teacher of 28 years has seen firsthand the challenges students face in her classroom. She says Golightly’s Agriscience program has changed and influenced the minds of students toward careers in horticulture and technology.

“My students are excited about the program especially when it comes to the hyrdoponics greenhouse,” Morro said. “They’re forward thinking and have identified the benefits of technological advancements. They see the career opportunities especially in terms of agricultural marketing and development.”

As in the past, the sale will feature over 80 varieties of tomatoes, including heirloom varieties not available from other sources. A comprehensive list of tomatoes as well as an information flier is available on the Belle Isle Conservancy Web site ( A wide selection of other vegetable plants, perennials and annual flowers, herbs and hanging baskets, designed and planted by students, are also available. Many of the plants offered for sale have been grown from seed in greenhouses.

The sale provides an opportunity for students to showcase the greenhouse management skills, which they have learned in this two-year program, and to develop marketing skills critical in the developing agriscience sector of the local economy. “Detroit is fertile ground for urban farming and agricultural development,” said Morro.

This year’s sale is sponsored by the Golightly Agriscience Advisory Board and profits will be used to provide enhanced curriculum and fund improvements to the greenhouses.

The plant sale will take place May 18 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and May 19 from 12-3 p.m. The Community Garden Day will take place May 21 from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. For more information, visit


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