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Crater FFA's social distancing plant sale gets hundreds of orders

Like a transplanted perennial, a Central Point fundraiser plant sale already has adapted to the reality of the social distancing era — but not without a lot of help from the community, and just a little patience.

In just one day, the Crater High School FFA chapter’s annual plant sale raised $24,000 — some 96 percent of the $25,000 raised all week last year — according to Crater horticulture teacher and FFA advisor Bailey Corcoran.

“To do almost all of our entire sales last year in one day is insane,” Corcoran said Saturday as she brought out orders placed online outside the high school’s greenhouse.

Corcoran said she initially had her doubts that shoppers wouldn’t take to the this year’s major shifts in how the plant sale is conducted, but that all changed Friday morning. In three hours after Corcoran launched a Shopify website for the sale at 5 a.m. Friday, the FFA already had 200 orders amounting to thousands of dollars. At one point, Corcoran said she was getting an email about once a second.

“By 10 a.m. yesterday (Friday) there was a lot that was out of stock,” Corcoran said.

As of midday Saturday, Corcoran said the fundraiser plant sale had already received 500 orders, and had delivered a couple hundred of them carside.

Corcoran said the entire stock of student grown snapdragons have already been claimed, and they’re getting low on some varieties of zinnias; however, they started with more than 12,000 plants in inventory so the sale is anything but picked-over.

They haven’t set a record for the year yet, but Corcoran said she’s hopeful. The record currently stands at about $28,000 raised in one week, and Corcoran said her goal is $30,000.

“If it’s not this year, it’ll be next year,” Corcoran said.

The online inventory management will help the FFA and students better adapt to what shoppers want to buy next year, with exact data about plant varieties and colors that sold best.

Corcoran said the plants sold at the FFA sale tend to be heartier than plants purchased from a regular nursery because they’re what she called “student strong,” describing how the student raised plants may have weathered missed waterings or other less-than-perfect care that makes the plants more robust when transplanted.

The mix of maintaining COVID-19 compliance, a brand new online shopping website and having only a fraction of last year’s people power already has been an adjustment for volunteers and customers alike.

“It’s been very different,” Corcoroan said. “And I appreciate that people, they’re rolling with it.”

Corcoran said volunteers are working hard to be flexible, saying that if someone signs up to pick up their plants at 11 a.m. but can’t make it until hours later, the buyer hasn’t missed their order, but they’re working with a much smaller team than usual. Last year, Corcoran had what she described as an “army” of about 70 students running the sale entirely on their own.

“This year my army is not allowed to be here,” Corcoran said. “We’ve had to pull from our adult volunteers.”

The handful of students on site were with their parents, Corcoran added.

Lynn Gladman of Central Point was one of the volunteers helping to pull plants from the greenhouse and deliver customers’ online orders to their vehicles Saturday.

Gladman said her five children are all grown, but she remains active with FFA because the program “changed our kids’ lives.”

She said the nonprofit is about more than just showing off livestock, and offers programs that give kids hands-on experience — and sometimes college credit — working with engines, learning about food science and honing their public speaking skills.

“It’s so broad,” Gladman said. “Every kid oughta be in FFA.”

A link to the plant sale’s Shopify page is available on the “Crater FFA Chapter” Facebook page or online at www.district6.org. Online order pickups resume Tuesday, May 5 through Friday, May 9.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@MTCrimeBeat.

Crater High School teacher Katie Jensen delivers an order carside from the school greenhouse Saturday during the FFA plant sale in Central Point.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Crater FFA volunteers work to deliver hundreds of orders Saturday morning during the fundraiser plant sale pick up at Crater High School in Central Point.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune