by Bruce Brown
The Heritage Greenhouse is hidden from view when you drive into the school’s parking lot. To see the greenhouse, you must go through the school, or follow the sidewalk to the south side of the building. The greenhouse was built there three years ago, nestled between two classroom wings. It has a cement foundation, block walls, steel framing and a heavy plastic cover. Along with a natural gas furnace and thermostatically controlled fans, it has a frost-free water faucet that for budget limitations was never connected to a water source.
The greenhouse is bright inside, filled with trays of foliage, blossoms and pots. Fans automatically regulate the temperature and humidity. The air is just what most plants like, warm and slightly humid.
Merelyn Snider is the volunteer greenhouse coordinator. On Wednesdays, he works with Heritage students in the greenhouse. As he greets them, the students are excited. They stand close so they can hear their instructions over the sound of the fans. Snider is patient, frequently picking up plants to use as examples as he explains the fundamentals of plant propagation. His knowledge of horticulture is extensive. You can see he is pleased to be sharing his passion for plant cultivation with a new generation.
“Last spring I wrote a grant application to the Stockbridge Area Educational Foundation (SAEF) for a waterline connection to the school. We use between 60 and 100 gallons of water a week for our greenhouse activities,” explains Snider. “Students had to carry the water to the greenhouse in buckets. They only have so much time with me and they were spending an awful lot of it hauling water.”
Snider’s grant request was approved by SAEF at its April 2019 meeting. The project cost of $4,700 is being shared with the school district. The waterline project was completed in September.
SAEF members thought the greenhouse waterline project would be a perfect match for the $2,500 America’s Farmers Grow Communities Grant awarded to the foundation by Stockbridge businessman and farmer Ben Topping.
Grow Communities partners with farmers to support nonprofit organizations and strengthen rural communities. Since 2010, the program, sponsored by the Bayer Fund, has given more than $33 million to over 8,000 nonprofits across rural America.
Ben Topping saw the connection between the grant he facilitated and the Heritage waterline project.
“My family and I are pleased to see these funds used in an endeavor that stimulates our children’s minds about agriculture,” Topping said.
Photo credit: Bruce Brown