Mishicot FFA’s floral business is ‘growing’ to fill need in the community

Michelle Stangler
Students have many opportunities to grow their skills such as attending the American Institute of Floral Design virtual workshop.

As Valentine’s Day draws near, members of the Mishicot FFA are busy filling orders for the mid-February holiday.

Without a florist in the village of Mischicot, the agricultural education department at Mishicot High School and FFA chapter is making a difference in the rural community in northeastern Wisconsin, filling a self-serve cooler at the high school with floral arrangements for any occasion.

Over six years ago, the agriculture education classes began making boutonnieres and corsages, said Agriculture Education Instructor and FFA Advisor Jamie Propson. From there, the student-led floral business blossomed with students asking to make the special flowers for school dances. Today the program had expanded with students creating arrangements for funerals, weddings and special events.

Wreaths and other holiday arrangements also began as a student project and has grown exponentially thanks to sales from the community. The first year, Propson says the FFA chapter made 20 sales. In 2020, they counted over 400 sales. 

“We keep growing and expanding,” said Propson.

Student floral manager, Crystal Anhalt, holds one of the student-created floral bouquets  that will be placed in the cooler at Mishicot High School. The public is welcome to purchases flowers from the cooler throughout the week.

The program has since grown with more student-led positions. At any given time, the program has an average of six students working on the floral project for an event. Additionally, there are 12 horticulture-based student managers that oversee the school forest, plant-based areas, and other related tasks. Today the initiative enjoys the services of 85 FFA members.

Propson says students grow their own floral products from the school forest and garden areas. When Wisconsin weather cooperates, they are able to harvest gladiolas, sunflowers, greens, and other varieties that are easy to grow during the summer.

To keep up with demand, the student business works with a Green Bay wholesaler to provide more specialty flowers in order to keep the floral cooler stocked year-round. Through this partnership, students are able to learn about the global spectrum of the floriculture industry, said Propson.

Throughout the year, the floral business offers seasonal items like wreaths with supplies being locally sourced from Manitowoc County.

Different than a typical floral business, the funds are reinvested back into the FFA’s floral program when a community member purchases a product.

Revenue from last year's sales allowed the business to add equipment such as a clamp-style wreath-maker. Students themselves also benefitted from the profits, including funds for conferences and competitions and training for students interested in becoming certified as professional florists.

Propson noted that Mishicot's first high school student enrolled in the Certified Florist program is one of the youngest individuals in the state to complete the training. Additionally, the group of student florists are members of the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Floral Association. So far they have participated in nearly 20 trainings, conferences, workshops and competitions through the association.

The floral business and classwork has helped students understand the background of the floral industry before competing. That education has helped the Mishicot FFA to earn several runner-up finishes over the years in the State Floriculture Career Development Event (CDE).

Propson says the floral business has become a study tool for FFA members prior to competing.

“It’s allowed the students new opportunities,” she said.

Since last year there wasn’t an in-person National FFA CDE competition. Students instead participated in the American Institute of Floral Design competition, competing against other chapters across the nation.

Students participating in the "Petal it Forward" campaign hand out two bouquets to community members, urging them to keep one and giving the other away to show kindness.

Petal it Forward and more

It’s not just strictly about the competitions for these students.

“We try to use flowers to enhance our community” Propson said.

For the past three years, Mishicot FFA has participated in the Petal it Forward campaign giving out two bouquets to community members, urging them to keep one and share the other with someone else as a means to share kindness and to ‘Petal it Forward.’

Propson says the FFA chapter saw a need within the community and as a result have been successful.

“In a small school, we try to diversify and individualize to meet the needs of our students” Propson said.

It’s important to Propson to meet students where they are at and fuel their energy to be motivated to learn more about the diversity within agriculture. This program, and everything the agriculture education department teaches, is to help students to be competent in college and to promote career readiness.

“We are appreciative of our school district and our community for their ongoing support because without this need in our community, we wouldn’t be able to give our students this experience,” Propson said.

While the FFA has taken pre-orders for the Valentine’s Day holiday, there are always fresh flowers available for purchase between 3-10 p.m. in the cooler at Mishicot High School on weekdays.

“I think everyone is ready for spring,” Propson said.

Those considering making an arrangement themselves, Propson recommends differentiating it with different materials or shapes.

"The students will use lily grass and shape it into a heart which helps to dress up some of their arrangements," noted Propson.

She says customers should think twice when purchasing flowers to give as a Valentine’s gift, being careful to consider the many options; a dozen roses or their best seller – an arrangement of a dozen red, white and pink tulips.

This Valentine’s day, Propson shares four tips for preserving that beautiful bouquet.

  1. Place flowers in indirect sunlight
  2. Add new water every few days
  3. Trim stems at a 45 ° angle when replacing water
  4. Cover flowers with a plastic/paper bag when transporting them as flowers don’t tolerate the cold which can be deadly to blooms.