• Jei Wilkinson

Cultivation Reincarnation: Mr. Mailes' Impact on the Garden


Photo by Gabriel Rodriguez

Eagle Rock has gone through many changes and evolved throughout the years.

The South Gym and auditorium are currently under renovation. These are all known sites of construction in the Eagle Rock community, but the unseen renovation is the Horticulture garden. Granted it was never a full-fledged renovation, so it makes sense why some would never give it any thought. But it has changed, and all thanks to the recently added teacher in Eagle Rock High School, Jeffery Mailes.


The beginnings of the Horticulture garden were lackluster to sum it up. The Nature Club at the time had a few projects here and there with little to no upkeep. The previous horticulture teacher Mr. Christ had helped, but never had a full takeover of management. The horticulture class was used as a class to slack and to fill the hole in the schedule. The average job that the horticulture class/Nature Club would be the occasional weeding. As I said, lackluster, but something beautiful had come from it, a man by the name of Jeffery Mailes. But how could he have come from it? He’s new isn’t he?! Well, here’s the origin.


Jeffrey Mailes found his interest in horticulture in rural Pennsylvania working alongside the tutelage of his great grandfather. In the high summers of the harvest season, he would develop and practice the art of horticulture with his great grandfather finding satisfaction in working with his hands and developing a deeper understanding of nature and the world around him.


The green thumb then developed by working in his university’s farm, UC Davis. Ever since his Davis days he has taught outdoor education along with being a garden teacher in multiple schools. But that was only the beginning as it would soon grow to be working in a non-profit organization called EnrichLA. EnrichLA is an organization that helps create edible gardens local schools.They have built gardens all throughout Los Angeles County from West LA to the Valley, and even right here in Eagle Rock.


Mailes was a part of that team that had helped create multiple planter beds in our own horticulture garden. This was the point where he had gained connections with our Principal Ms. Keipp and the former horticulture teacher Mr. Christ. Enrich LA was the driving point to lead Mailes to where he is today.

Mailes had become more familiar with the garden by being a ranger for the garden. He would come by once a week to help out the garden any way he could. Whilst Mailes was rangering the previous horticulture teacher had kept nudging Mailes in the direction of getting a teaching credential.


At first, Mailes hadn’t really thought about getting a teaching credential then gave it some thought. A few years later had passed and Mailes gave Mr. Christ a call saying “Hey Phil, I don’t know what time you plan on retiring, but I just want to let you know that I did, in fact, follow your advice. I got my teaching credential, and… I’m here.” Then a day had passed, no answer. A week passed, still no answer. Then three weeks had passed and he finally got a callback. It essentially had gone down like this.


“Hey, do you want a job?” said Keipp and Christ.


“Uhh… Yes!” said Mailes.


Now fast forward to 2018, Mailes has gotten the job and it’s his first year teaching. As stated previously, The garden was not in great shape. As Mailes put it, “there were unloved plants and just overall not so fun areas to be in.” The first year was prioritizing cleaning up the garden. He had thrown away plants with its roots overgrown, thrown away the trash that had been building up over the years, and pulled out of place plants. It was as if a phoenix was rising from the ashes, with the ashes being everything that was junk and dilapidated.

The garden, now clean, was ready to be reborn. Project ideas were coming fast from the students and Mailes. It was an overwhelming task for just one person to spearhead all these projects, but luckily the students of Horticulture were there to help. Because of his role, he does lead most of the projects, but students are the energy leaders. The students are the ones that bring these projects to life.


An example would be the Music in the Garden that had occurred just last year in the garden. Whilst the garden was being purged a student had an idea of wanting to have a bunch of other students come to the garden and play music. It then developed into a partnership between Student Art Editorial, Choir, and Future Farmers of America, where Choir would perform, SAE would provide zines and perform, and FFA would make food. It all started from a group of kids just wanting to play music, which evolved into a successful event, kickstarting horticulture’s new beginning.


Many other transformations had also occurred, throughout the reign of Mailes. The Nature Club had been around in the horticulture garden for a long time. It was the team of people, in the previous years, that would do the general upkeep of the horticulture garden. In late 2018 to early 2019 Nature Club, now with the new teacher Mailes, had started to work on many different projects. It had been separated into committees dedicated to doing one to multiple jobs in the garden. Things seemed to have been looking up.


Nature Club, in its most recent years, was essentially a club of friends. Because it had been a group of friends, the work ethic was lacking. It would be hard to tell one of your friends that they should move in a certain direction when the other doesn’t. In a club with everyone with the same agenda/ vision, fixing problems would be easier. But a club like Nature Club, it would be difficult for members to agree on certain terms when they all have different views of what they want the club to be.


Nature Club was in a decline in their projects. They were abandoned or had been too big of a job than they could handle. Mailes had a solution with merging the Nature Club with a national organization called Future Farmers of America (FFA). Nature Club, now deemed, FFA, was a great advancement in horticulture’s rise.


Horticulture’s changes have been greatly improved by the new teacher Mr. Mailes, but it couldn’t have been where it is now, without its students as well. Many ideas may have come from Mailes, but the students are truly the ones who help bring the vision to life.

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