Two women in tie-dyed t-shirts watering a long table full of plants

 

Friends School Plant Sale is almost entirely volunteer-run.

More than 1,400 people are needed to do everything from building display tables to shelving plants, and from tallying up orders to packing it all up after the sale is over. 

Each volunteer is expected to work at least a four-hour shift, but many work additional shifts. Find out about your specific shift time when you sign up.

Volunteer benefits

Each year, volunteers are invited to shop at the pre-sale on Thursday. They also receive an extra discount for their Sunday shopping. You can find more info in our FAQ.

 

SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER HERE


 

What needs to be done by volunteers? 

Volunteer jobs generally fall into the following categories:

  • Before the sale week
  • Setup (before the sale)
  • Plant unloading and shelving (before and during the sale)
  • During the sale
  • Cleanup (after the sale) 
  • And one additional job that takes place before, during, and after the sale: Volunteer Desk. Check in volunteers as they arrive. Hand out aprons and name tags. Call volunteers who have not arrived for their shifts. Check volunteers out when they leave. Help with other tasks that may include lifting and standing.  

Note: Most of the volunteer jobs listed here fill up as of April 1, except: construction and truck unloading during setup, Zero Waste advisor during the sale, and deconstruction, sign removal, truck loading and hauling to school during cleanup. However, in the last week or two before the sale, it's common for spots to open up in many jobs — so it may be worth checking more job titles in early May.

Before the Sale Week

There are a few jobs well before the sale starts.

Sort and count plastic newspaper bags that will be used to bag lily bulbs and daylily roots. Indoor, sitting job with minimal physical activity. At Friends School of Minnesota on February 24.

 

 

Must have own car. Each volunteer will select a specific suburban county area (many are libraries), and will distribute at least 300  catalogs, keeping them stocked at each site and tracking the sites on a Google sheet maintained by the Plant Sale Committee. Volunteers will be contacted in March when catalogs are  available for pickup at Friends School of Minnesota in Saint Paul.

Collect strawberry and tomato boxes from a grocery store near you and keep them safe until the Plant Sale. To do this shift, volunteers identify a grocery store near them that is willing to save produce boxes. The volunteer coordinates with the produce manager at the store to arrange a schedule to pick up the boxes, usually once a day or every two days.

Setup

We start on the Saturday morning before the sale date.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 30 pounds, lifting and bending

Remove items from storage at school and load into truck. Unpack this truck and large semi full of lumber at Grandstand. Move lumber and items on carts to locations inside the Grandstand for table setup. 

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 30 pounds, lifting and bending, some volunteers need to work 10 – 20 feet above the floor. 

Sign hangers: Hang signs during setup. Remove and organize signs for storage during breakdown. Some work on a cherry picker to hang signs from the ceiling. 2 people operate from a height; a third person assists from the floor. 

Scissor lift operator: THIS JOB REQUIRES AT LEAST FIVE YEARS EXPERIENCE WITH A SCISSOR LIFT. INDOORS JOB. Use a scissor lift to hang signs during setup. Remove and organize signs for storage during breakdown. You will operate the lift. 

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 50 pounds, lifting and bending

You will unload large semi full of lumber and equipment.

Volunteers working after dark should bring a flashlight because the Fairgrounds’ exterior lights are not always lit.

OUTDOORS. Strings of construction lights will need to be strung together with extension cords and suspended beneath tent canopies to provide evening light. Requires comfort working on a step ladder and working above your head.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 30 pounds, lifting and bending, comfort with drills and screwdrivers (bring own power tool if possible) and gardening/construction gloves

Work varies: Assemble tables with a partner (social distancing, instruction provided). Hang strings for signs along the top of the tables. Clean up construction area as required.

Physical requirements: Lifting and bending
This job is best done as a team of two people. The team will require access to a car or truck.

Pick up approximately 40 lawn signs from the Grandstand building on Tuesday before the sale, then distribute and place the signs at corners near the fairgrounds (by 8:00 am Wednesday morning). A map identifying where we expect to have signs placed will be provided.

The team that signs up for distributing these signs will also be expected to pick up these same signs on Sunday afternoon or evening after the sale and return them to school some time that week. 

Requirements: Detail orientation and ability to measure accurately and follow directions carefully

Assist with measuring spaces on tables for plants and mark with temporary signs. Hang plant signs above tables with clips so that two clips (top and bottom) are on each sign. Do not try to share clips with a sign from the other side of the table.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 30 pounds, lifting, walking, and bending

Work with a partner to place material on the bare soil where plants will be located to assure there is no risk of transferring jumping worm eggs, if any are present. 

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 30 pounds, lifting and bending

Work with the Garden Fair coordinator to get set up for the Garden Fair and help setup curbside loading tables. Work outside, so dress for the weather.

Plant Unloading

We start plant unloading early on Tuesday afternoon before the sale date.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 20 pounds, lifting and bending continuously throughout shift

Move plant carts from trucks to staging areas within Grandstand, and then place them in their assigned table locations. Knowledge of plants useful but not necessary. Bring gardening or work gloves! 

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 50 pounds, long arms and height are necessary,ability to walk up and down truck ramps repeatedly, lifting and bending continuously throughout shift

Help unload tall, heavy rolling racks of plants from trucks. This means working with the truck driver on a lift-gate or rolling the racks down ramps. The racks are heavily loaded, so a long reach and height are necessary. Non-slip shoes or workboots! Bring work gloves.

As plants arrive from growers, work with a partner to identify the plants planned to be sent to the backstocking area of the sale and load them onto cart(s). Move the carts to the backstocking area in an elevator and unload the plants to their designated areas. Requires continual lifting and walking.
 

Physical requirements: Work standing up throughout shift; otherwise, low physical demands

Place required number of bulbs or roots in each bag, staple bag shut with label provided, and place in bin.

Physical requirements: Standing and walking throughout with some kneeling and lifting, ability to lift 20 pounds. Detail orientation and cooperative interaction with others

Place plant label sticks one per plant or pack in flats as directed. Move flats around as needed. Working outside.

Physical requirements: Standing and walking throughout with some sitting. Detail orientation and hand dexterity

Prepare seed packets for sale and place on shelves, cut apart black flats of plants.

During the Sale

Lots of jobs to do! Some working with customers, others working with plants.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 15 pounds, lifting and bending

When you sign up, pick which section you will cover. Consolidate partial flats of plants into fewer flats, raise plants from lower shelves to the most visible shelves as needed. Locate stray plants and put in collection areas. Reshelve stray plants.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 15 pounds, lifting and bending

Refill the stock of plants from the backstock location to the sale tables. Requires a lot of walking, working in a team, moving a rolling cart. Use of an elevator to reach the backstocking location. Continuous lifting of plant flats.
 

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 20 pounds, lifting and bending

Use a mobile pump-action watering system. Be sensitive to which plants need watering and give them a drink. Water thoroughly

Physical requirements: Must work outdoors. Outgoing personality

Keep line organized and make the experience pleasant for people waiting.

Physical requirements: Usually must stand throughout shift; may be outdoors. Outgoing personality

Familiarity with previous sales useful (one person per shift at least). Hand clipboard, map, shopping sheet and pencil to ALL shoppers who enter. Explain briefly about recording purchases. Answer other questions as needed. 

Requirements: Must be Friends School parent, alum, staff, grandparent or close relative, comfort with making change. No standing required

Take checks from shoppers and process credit cards. Direct shoppers to exit/exterior area where they can leave plants at curb.

Requirements: Comfort with math and calculators; training provided. If you haven’t done this before, arrive 15 minutes early.

Speak to each person in your line. Review their sheet and total their purchases. Write totals on sheet.

Location: Indoors, possibly partially sitting

Assist shoppers in temporarily storing full shopping carts to allow them to continue shopping. Retrieve their cart(s) when they return to enter the checkout line.

Physical requirements: Must stand throughout shift. Outgoing personality. Work is indoors.

Check with all shoppers as they approach the checkouts to see if they have their form filled out. Spot check lists (especially big ticket items) to make sure the items are recorded on the shoppers’ forms

Requirements: Must be official Master Gardener, familiarize yourself with catalog before sale. No standing required

Answer questions and help shoppers with plant selection 

Physical requirements: Walking and bending

Circulate throughout sale picking up empty flats, bring to one location and group with like flats. 

Physical requirements: Able to run or walk, stand a lot waiting for things

Put tally sheets and pencils onto clipboards. Retrieve clipbards from cashier area to greeter area.

Physical requirements: Stand throughout shift, ability to lift 20 pounds

Hand out numbers to shoppers who leave their plants; help them load their plants when they return with their car. Make sure only the person with the right number loads plants.

Physical requirements: Stand and move throughout shift, physically demanding

Move shopping carts as needed. Help manage access to carts so shoppers who have been waiting get one before new arrivals. 

Physical requirements: Stand throughout shift; sections are both inside and outside

Choose your favorite plant section and help customers find and choose plants. 

Physical requirements: Requires lots of walking

Help lost or abandoned plants get back to their assigned locations. Work with the Info Desk and bring plants back to their numbered location. 

Physical requirements: Stand and walk throughout shift. Some work is outside

Circulate through the sale continuously with a clipboard to record early sellouts and mark their signs appropriately. 

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 20 pounds, lifting and bending continuously throughout shift

Cart volunteers move plant carts from the trucks to their locations on the tables. Knowledge of plants helpful.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 50 pounds, lifting and bending continuously throughout shift.

Truck volunteers help unload the tall, heavy rolling racks out the trucks. This means working with the truck driver on a lift-gate or rolling the racks down ramps. The racks are heavily loaded, so a long reach, more strength and height are necessary. 
 

Physical requirements: Stand and walk throughout shift; work may be outside

Pitch in wherever needed for areas that need more help. 

Physical requirements: Stand and walk throughout shift; work is outside

Stand (sitting possible if own chair brought) beside a set of recycling, compost, and trash receptacles to advise shoppers on which one to use.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 20 pounds, lifting and bending continuously throughout shift

OUTDOORS. Help reduce the footprint of the sale and move it in the direction of being a zero waste event. You will use a cart to collect bags of compost, recycling and waste from 6 stations spread throughout the sale. This will be outdoors, please dress for the weather. 
 

Check in volunteers as they arrive. Hand out aprons and name tags. Call volunteers who have not arrived for their shifts. Check volunteers out when they leave. When not checking people in or out, you'll be assigned to help with other jobs around the sale which may include lifting and standing. 

Cleanup after the Sale

Sunday and Monday, we take it all apart.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 30–50 pounds, lifting and bending

Comfort with drills and screwdrivers (bring own power tool if possible). Disassemble tables and other infrastructure as it becomes empty and move lumber to truck. Heavy, strenuous work

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 20 pounds, lifting and bending. Outdoors.

Help take down the Zero Waste stations.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 50 pounds, lifting and bending

Reload large semi full of lumber and equipment.

Physical requirements: Ability to lift 50 pounds, lifting and bending

Requires transportation means for about 2 miles distance.