Gardening can be a fun way for kids to learn practical life skills, and Grow Ohio Valley is giving teens ages 13- 17 the opportunity to learn every aspect of flower gardening with their latest program. 

“Budding Wheeling” is a 6-month paid program that will employ kids living in East Wheeling and the surrounding area to learn the ins and outs of flower farming. Participants will learn how to plan grow, arrange, sell and distribute flowers during a six-month program that was designed for kids between the ages of 13 and 17. The program will begin on March 26 and continue through October. 

This program was conceived by Mikelea Skidmore, Grow Ohio Valley’s Youth Farm Ventures Coordinator. Mikelea said that when evaluating their programs, they noticed that they didn’t have much to offer teenagers, so they developed this program specifically with teens in mind. 

The Laughlin Memorial Chapel has been longtime partners with Grow OV, and with most kids aging out of their programming around age 13, they too were thrilled to help make this program available to local teenagers. “For kids living in an urban setting, this program will provide a unique experience to learn not just about farming, but also learning about marketing and establishing relationships,” said Martha Wright, executive director at the Laughlin Memorial Chapel. 

So, why flowers? Aside from being a beautiful thing to grow, Mikelea explained that flowers are a great option for first-time gardeners. “They are pretty easy to grow,” said Mikelea. “So it’s a good starting point for people who don’t have a lot of previous growing experience.” There’s also a growing demand for local flowers here in Wheeling. Grow OV’s fresh-cut flowers are a popular item at the Pubic Market, and the demand has outweighed the supply at times.

Understanding supply and demand will be one of many skills participants will learn during this program. In addition to growing the flowers, teens in the program will become budding entrepreneurs by helping sell their harvest. “They will essentially get to run their own flower business,” said Mikelea. “We hope that teaching them how to track their own sales will provide them with a sense of pride and ownership in the work they are doing.” From seed to harvest to distribution they will be involved in every aspect of production. 

To help share these flowers with an ever wider audience, Grow OV plans to offer a special CSA flower share that will be offered in conjunction with their regular CSA program. This new offering will allow businesses and individuals to have a weekly supply of fresh-cut flowers on their tables that can be picked up from the Public Market every Thursday. Grow OV expects that distribution will begin in late June. 

There are currently five teenagers accepted into the Budding Wheeling program, and there’s still room for more! If you have a teen (or are a teen) who wants to learn more about flower gardening, then visit growov.org/flowers to apply. You can also send an email to education@growov.org if you have questions about this or any other program offered through Grow OV. 

The program will begin on Saturday, March 26 and will continue through October. Participants are expected to work on Saturdays from noon – 4 p.m. when school is in session and two weekdays throughout the summer months. Flowers will be grown at Farm 18, one of Grow OV’s urban farm sites in East Wheeling. The Budding Wheeling program seeks to provide holistic employment opportunities for youth that focus on the person rather than just the employee aspect. Learn more about this and other Grow OV programs at growov.org.

• Alex Panas is the Communications and Development Manager at Wheeling Heritage. She earned an undergraduate degree in health communication from Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a master of arts in communication studies from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Since moving back to the Ohio Valley, Alex has been involved in a variety of organizations dedicated to revitalizing Wheeling, including the Wheeling Young Preservationists, Generation Wheeling and the United Way. A self-proclaimed cat lady, Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her two cats, Zoey and Millie, and her husband, Aaron Moore.

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