Agriculture department greenhouses and plants
April 19, 2024

Four decades of flora college plant sale April 26-27


For over 45 years, the Mendocino County Agriculture Department has been hosting the best Spring plant sale in town, and this year, according to Ag Technician Jake Kyle, the trees, flowers, perennials and veggies couldn’t be better.

“We’ve upped our game- again,” smiles Kyle, who started out with the college as a student worker in 2009. The sale runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on April 26 and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on the 27th.

“So many people planted gardens during the pandemic. Last year, we saw a significant increase in the number of plants sold. I think last year people were willing to start venturing out into public areas again, so this year, we’re anticipating quite a crowd,” Kyle notes. To that end, Kyle instructed the Ag Department employees to increase production of veggies and annual flowers.

Not only was attendance up at the sale, but student enrollment has also increased, according to Agriculture Department Instructor Kurt Voigt.

“We’ve had a great crop of students,” he smiles. “I had to cap the classes at 26 students because that’s all the desks we had.” Along with proceeds from the plant sale, which help to fund the college Agriculture program, Voigt notes that the program receives funding from the Mendocino College Foundation. “We were just able to purchase a new grafting tool, and our viticulture  instructor is putting new stock in our vineyard,” he continues.

One of the program’s success stories is Agriculture major Derrick Romine, a full-time student and father of two who commutes from Lake County.

“I’m taking pretty much every plant class offered- from viticulture to soils to propagation.” The Oxford, Alabama native grew up loving plants and being outdoors. He joined the Army and spent a tour in Korea. “After the Army, I took a bus to San Francisco and hitchhiked up and down the coast.” An interest in the cannabis industry brought him to Mendocino County, and then to the college.

“I started out taking courses in the Sustainable Tech program. For 7 years I worked in the building trades for the cannabis industry. I got to the point where I didn’t want to go up on 40-foot ladders all day. I took a mushroom class and fell in love with agriculture.” Following the completion of his AA degree and multiple certifications, Romine plans to transfer to a 4-year college, with a long-range plan to become a consultant in water conservation, reforestation, vineyard management or nurseries.

Voigt notes that a sizeable number of students interested in the cannabis industry find their way to the college.

“These students find themselves working for someone but not being told the ‘why’ of what they’re doing. Why are they pruning when they prune? Why are they using the types of fertilizer that are used in the industry? They leave here with a breadth of knowledge and many of them have ended up being my ‘A’ students,” says Voigt.

This year’s sale includes over 325 plant species. “If we add in the veggies and annual flowers, we’ll be offering over 450 types of plants, shrubs, trees and flowers at the sale,” says Kyle.

Students from the Plant Propagation and Nursery Management courses helped with this year’s sale. This year’s vegetables continue the department’s tradition of growing organic vegetables using only compost tea for fertilization.

Over 24 varieties of tomatoes were cultivated for the sale- a blend of varieties including old favorites like Early Girl , Mortgage Lifter and Supersweet 100 along with heirlooms such as Cherokee Purple and the Japanese Black Trifele.

Other veggies at the sale include 10 types of squash, 24 pepper varieties, pumpkins, spinach, gourds, 11 types of lettuce, melons, okra, artichokes, basil, chives, cucumbers and eggplant.

Also on sale will be a variety of herbs including lemon balm, spearmint, rosemary, anise, borage, fennel, calendula, cilantro, thyme, dill, parsley, fennel, oregano, rue, stevia, savory, marjoram and tarragon.

“We ran out of annual flowers last year, so we’ve increased production by 50 percent,” says Kyle.  About 16 varieties will be for sale including marigolds, clarkia, snapdragons and zinnias.

“We have a great selection of edible perennials this year,” notes Voigt. There are several varieties of blueberries and strawberries, as well as Meyer lemons, loquats, goji berries, female kiwi and table grapes. New to the sale this year are one-gallon pots of asparagus, which will come with planting and harvesting instructions.

The Native Plant and Perennial areas are full, containing many plants that have enjoyed a relatively mild but wet winter. Look for several varieties of butterfly bushes, cedars, foxgloves, California fuchsia, lavender, Dogwoods, Ceanothus and many more.

As always, the staff will be on hand to answer questions and help take purchased plants to vehicles. “We encourage people to bring their own wagons if they’re well-marked. We have wagons on site, but usually not enough,” says Kyle. The sale is cash or check only, and all proceeds go to purchasing items for the Agriculture Department and the materials for the next plant sale, taking place in the fall. A listing of the plant inventory can be found at Agriculture | Mendocino College