All grown up
The Greenhouse Project shows range
Sometimes a project is actually 10 projects. The Greenhouse Project in Carson City is like that.
Located on the Carson High School campus—but operating as a separate non-profit—the Greenhouse Project started in 2008 as a single-building operation that has steadily outgrown its four walls. Today, the farm-like facility stretches down a dirt-road shoulder, housing 75 raised beds, two hoop-houses and a compost pile in addition to the original 2,100-square-foot greenhouse.
With their growing patchwork of production space, the non-profit does what greenhouse manager Cory King refers to as “a lot.” This is a bit of an understatement, as the one-acre property manages to fuel a community supported agriculture (CSA) basket, a city-sponsored hanging petunia program, plant sales, and annual donations for local food banks. They also provide agriculture courses, student internships, and culinary program support for the neighboring high school.
Though none of this is news to capital city residents who have seen the non-profit grow over the years, the method behind the madness is worth a second look.
“I’m still learning how to juggle it.” said King. “But I think it all has a lot of value here.”
Formerly a librarian at the University of Nevada Reno, King picked up where former manager Camille Jones left off last year, turning his gardening habit into a full-time position. To King, the value of the Greenhouse Project means more than the hundreds of community service hours clocked and thousands of pounds of food that it has donated over the years.
“It’s really a learning experience not just in growing produce, but also in how to take care of the environment—how humans can live within that system,” King said.
Questions like, “How does agriculture fit into the environment?” and “How can we generate as many nutrients as we can for our plants?” help guide the students and AmeriCorps volunteers who run the property—leading to better compost systems, a new food forest and even the decision about what to do with 500 tomato plants infected with mites.
“We were gearing up to sell hundreds of tomatoes at [the plant sale],” King said, recalling the early spring discovery of tomato russet mites. After applying a sulfur spray as a last resort, the greenhouse team decided that even with green tomatoes on the vines, sending a potential blight into the community was too risky.
“Having production goals and having education goals—sometimes they work really well together, sometimes they don’t,” said King. “So it’s balancing what the students are learning with those production goals.”
However the yields turn out, King is comfortable taking a hit and hopes his students are too.
“Failure is a learning experience, and that’s the bottom line there,” he said. “One thing fails. Other things survive. I try to have enough planted so that if something fails, I have enough of other things.”
So they pivot. Instead of making money on tomatoes this year, The Greenhouse Project continues on with its CSA, petunia basket program and its annual benefit—Concert Under the Stars—which raised $12,500 earlier this month.
“There’s a lot of parts that make this thing work well,” said King.