It started with a seed


Norma Flores

The annual plant sale held on March 16 by Downey high school Botany classes gave members of the community the opportunity to purchase their plants in the front parking lot. Mr. Pittengers Botany class began cultivating the plants in early Sept. 2012.

Marilyn Ramirez, Copy Editor/Co-Editor-in-Chief

On the normally bleak asphalt of the school’s parking lot stood a garden on wheels with a variety of peppers and tomatoes, the creations grown by Mr. Greg Pittenger and his Botany students who held the annual plant sale for three Saturdays in a row starting on March 16. Profits from the first two weekends amounted to $2,000 for the classes who have been maintaining the plants since September along with other fruits and vegetables including carrots, lettuce, and strawberries.


“I wanted to show [the students] the multitudes of varieties of plants that many people just don’t know exist,” Pittenger said. “This sale contributes to a massive chunk of our classes’ funding.”


The sale’s mornings started with a steady stream of people, turning into a flood during the afternoons. Customers ranged from teachers who were invited to a pre-sale, students with their families, and community members. Repeated buyers like city resident Margaret Collins have returned happy with their purchases.


“I am very please with the quality of tomatoes I’ve been given these past few years,” Collins said. “I know a bit more about growing and that sort of thing with the help of [Pittenger].”


As the trusted expert with knowledge on the root and stem maintenance of the peppers and tomatoes, Pittenger was grateful for the students who volunteered their weekend to aid the customers in the basics of their purchases.


“I can’t go entirely into the caring of the plants like Mr. Pittenger,” Rudy Pacel, 11, said, “so I just try to listen to things he says and remember them. It’s like class anyways, and I’m pretty sure we could sell a lot since a lot of people are coming.”


Students like Pacel took two-hour shifts throughout the day, dealing with payments and questions customers had. Although much of the morning was slow, by noon there was no time to waste as cars pulled up to the lot. Rafael Segura, 11, noticed the next shift’s students hadn’t arrived and decided to stay until the sale ended.


“I started at 12:00 and stayed with a friend of mine until it ended,” Segura said. “She and I had a good time helping out; we even got to meet Mr. Pittenger’s wife.”


His wife, Dawn Pittenger, has accompanied her husband at the plant sales since they began three years ago.


“It’s nice to see Greg sell so many plants,” Mrs. Pittenger said. “I know the sales have done pretty well these past few years, and [the students] here have been so helpful.”


Although the plant sale has gone well, Pittenger has been continuously working to raise money for his Botany classes. The expenses for tools, seeds, compost, and soil test kits are not nearly covered by student donations, resulting in the applications and letters Pittenger has written to companies for grants to support the classroom’s needs. His persistence left him rewarded by The California Fertilizer Foundation with a grant totaling $1,200, and he continues to wait for the rest of the responses.