WDC shows off its greenhouse to U of M Central Region Partnership directors
Wadena-Deer Creek Schools provided a major contributor a healthy overview of how well their greenhouse is producing fresh produce for it school cafeterias, as well as serving as a learning classroom for all ages, from early childhood to high school.
The University of Minnesota’s Central Region Partnership (CRSP) board of directors held its board meeting in Wadena on May 13, so the board could tour the WDC Greenhouse and see the progress made for this project. CRSP provided $12,000 in grant monies for the greenhouse.
About 30 individuals from CRSP and WDC were on hand for the visit inside the 24-by-32-foot structure. CRSP board members were impressed with the raised beds and hanging trays of lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes, carrots, peas and beans and the two 55-gallon towers of blooming strawberries. There were shelves brimming with small plastic pots with budding marigolds planted by preschoolers and elementary students. High school science students are utilizing the greenhouse for experiments too. Board members even got the opportunity to sample the fresh produce, as WDC Greenhouse Manager Ed Lewis passed around a platter filled with lettuce, kale, spinach, radishes and carrots.
“What do I see here? I see students learning to grow plants,” said Lewis. “Kids are the key to making this work and the reason this greenhouse is here.”
WDC Food Services Director Sandie Rentz said when Lewis brings fresh produce to the high school cafeteria, the staff cleans it and puts the produce on the serving line, with a prominent sign noting, “Grown in the WDC Greenhouse.”
“Our kids love it!” Rentz said, adding, “We’ve saved approximately $1,500 to $2,000” since the greenhouse began supplying the high school and elementary cafeterias with produce beginning in January.
WDC junior Anissa Mench said she especially likes the fresh carrots. “[The carrots] taste sweeter. They’re really good. The fresh produce makes lunch a lot better.”
For WDC senior Jordan Folkestad, he enjoys learning inside the greenhouse, who is enrolled in the “Plant & Horticulture” class taught by WDC ag instructor, Richard Muckala.
“I enjoy learning with my hands, instead of a textbook,” Folkestad said, who has aspirations of working in the agriculture field after graduation.
Also speaking during the visit was WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum; WDC ag instructor Richard Muckala; Central Sustainable Development Partnership/Regional Office-Brainerd executive director Molly Zins; Wadena County Public Health/SHIP grant coordinator Erica Keppers; and Stimulating Economic Progress director Dave Evert.
Lewis also told the board the greenhouse will continue to provide fresh produce to the summer lunch program at WDC Elementary. In addition, Lewis is breaking ground on a 25-by-100-foot garden plot where youths from the school’s summer recreation program and academic boosters will help plant, care for and harvest the garden this summer.