Through the efforts of community volunteers, Farm to School AmeriCorps Carl Kelk and West Virginia Extension Service Agent Greg Hamons, the Green Bank Elementary-Middle School greenhouse got a makeover and will soon be ready for plants.
Last year, principal Ricky Sharp asked Kelk to remove the greenhouse which he thought was unsalvageable. Instead, Kelk and food service coordinator Lisa Dennison came up with a plan to use what was left of the old greenhouse.
“We put a proposal in and told them what we were trying to do,” Kelk said. “Larry Hiner did all the woodwork for it. He’s helped me put all the metal back on to tighten it back up. Larry donated his time to put all this together.”
Last week, Kelk and Hamons strapped on their tool belts and conquered the task of putting new plastic on the building.
“We’re still trying to kick it around of whether we’re going to design it as a high tunnel or a greenhouse,” Hamons said. “The difference is having a heating source or not a heating source. If we put a heating source in here, potentially we can start growing stuff immediately as soon as we get our plastic on and our heating in. With the heat you can grow stuff year round.
“If we design it as a high tunnel which is basically heated from solar heat, we can grow stuff during the winter if we get it in pretty soon, like lettuce and carrots,” he continued. “Probably what we’re going to look at more is a production system to grow plants and sell plants so that way the maintenance during the summertime when the kids aren’t here will be pretty low.”
The plan to use the greenhouse in all grades is part of the Farm-to-School initiative which promotes the idea of teaching students the importance of growing their own food, the economics of growing and selling food, as well as providing healthy foods to be used at home and in the schools.
At Green Bank, the students will be growing plants to sell as a fundraiser for school events. Although the plan is not yet set in stone, Hamons said the students will share responsibilities in the growing process.
“There’s another small greenhouse on the other side of the school with the grow light and that kind of stuff in there already, so the younger kids will start the plants over there,” Hamons said. “Once they get them started, we’ll move them over here and transplant them, and grow them out to sellable size. Then hopefully, they will sell them in the spring. That’s what we’re shooting for.”
At this point, the plants grown at the school will not be used in the cafeteria, but as they say, there’s always room for growth.
“They’re just trying to make a greenhouse to sell plants back to the community,” Kelk said. “Then if the kids take it home and grow, it can come back. It’s still part of the Farm-to-School vision of seed to plate. Maybe as it grows, the vision can grow as big as they want it to grow.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com