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VMHS senior grows 2-foot broccoli plant

Big things are sprouting at Veterans Memorial High School, with the FARMERS’ program winter harvest bringing a 2-foot-wide broccoli plant. Aaron Villareal, a senior, explained the process of growing the giant vegetable and the program’s impact.

Villareal isn’t sure about the cause of the plant’s large scale.

Aaron Villarreal tends to the outdoor VMHS garden on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. Photo by Maria Ruiz/Progress Times.

“It might’ve been the nutrients we added. Maybe it was more available in that specific area that we put it in,” Villareal said. “Probably also had to do with the temperature because we’ve been experiencing cold fronts, and they do well in cold weather.”

After harvesting the broccoli, Villareal and his program members used it to make a warm, homemade broccoli cheese soup.

“We cooked it the following day,” he said. “You get to enjoy what you’ve been working on this whole time, and we do that with a lot of foods that we grow. So it’s just nice…to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

The senior entered the FARMERS program his junior year, eager to have a class focusing on the outdoors.

Aaron Villarreal tends to the outdoor VMHS garden on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. Photo by Maria Ruiz/Progress Times.

“I heard about it from a friend,” said Villareal. “I’ve always liked the idea of outdoor classrooms. Basically, what it is, that’s what we do most of the time. We’re outside, planting, cleaning up the different [plant] beds.”

Since then, Villareal has learned to plant, tend, and harvest vegetables, herbs, and flowers, such as carrots, kale, pumpkin, zinnias, and Thai basil.

His time with the FARMERS’ program has inspired him to pursue a career in Environmental Science and a focus on climate change study.

Graduating this year, this senior also urges students of all career paths to take a chance on the program.

“I’d advise them to take it,” he said, explaining the program can build self-sustainability skills and work as a distraction from social media and modern technology.

“It affects us mentally and our state of being. I feel we’re chronically online most of the time. So it’s just something that…you can substitute with,” he said. ”

Overall, Villarreal highlighted the importance of getting close to nature and using the environment for benefit. “Fields aren’t found a lot here because of construction, and there’s just buildings that are being built. If you can, just make something out of the dirt instead of just putting a building on it.”

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