Lindsey Laughlin never imagined in eighth grade when she joined the West Liberty High School FFA Chapter that she’d be running a greenhouse.
The West Liberty senior helped her organization make a record $13,000 profit last year from their greenhouse, despite the COVID-19 pandemic simply by reimagining the way the organization conducted their sale.
The changes included building a greenhouse inventory that had a bigger demand, utilizing social media and building an order form that has now been imitated by about 100 other chapters in the state.
The changes helped Laughlin earn the top Nursery Operations Proficiency Award and, along with Janey Gingerich and Isabel Morrison, claim top state honors for Chapter Program of Activities at the Iowa FFA Convention held in DesMoines last week.
In eighth grade, Laughlin assisted Lauryn Aird in the greenhouse and got hooked on growing plants and flowers, noting “it was something I enjoyed.”
It wasn’t long before Laughlin would have the leadership role in conducting the business of the greenhouse, not only growing spring plants, but plants year round including poinsettias for the holidays. The last several years, the club has seen profits from their giant spring sale – the biggest fundraiser for the organization – grow from $8-10 thousand.
“We looked at the varieties we were growing and what sold and what didn’t,” Laughlin said, adjusting the varieties the greenhouse would grow to meet the demand. COVID-19 forced the group to look at it’s business differently, creating an order form they will continue to use years behind the pandemic, helping organize orders last year and keep sales vivid despite keeping socially distant. Although Morris played a major role in watering plants daily while students couldn’t get into the school, Laughlin and other FFA volunteers worked behind the scenes in setting up the sale.
“We were the first chapter to put together a plan,” said Morris in battling fundraising through the pandemic last spring. “Everyone was in the same situation,” Morris said as chapters had to shut down their greenhouses because of the pandemic. Somehow, West Liberty found a way through it.
Laughlin says she’s not sure if running a nursery is in her future, but will take her skills to Des Moines Area Community College (DEMAC) this fall, looking into a possible ag business major.