Growing up green

Greenhouse education program at Carson High

The Greenhouse Project site manager and garden educator Camille Jones stands in their about 3,000-square-foot greenhouse at Carson High School.

The Greenhouse Project site manager and garden educator Camille Jones stands in their about 3,000-square-foot greenhouse at Carson High School.

Photo/Sage Leehey

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Behind Carson High School’s Junior ROTC building and bus lot, it’s a little surprising to find a large greenhouse, hoophouse and over 80 raised planter beds.

The site also has a few composting stations, about 15 young fruit trees, some hydroponics and a developing demonstration permaculture food forest.

“A food forest is perennial, so it comes back year after year,” site manager and garden educator Camille Jones said. “You’ll basically have a grass of strawberries and asparagus and bushes of berries and currants and flowering plants with an upper story of trees and nuts and plants that bring nutrients back into the soil. Basically, you’re making a forest that doesn’t really need to be fertilized or cared for quite as much.”

The site is run mostly off of solar panels located on the premises, and the greenhouse is heated and cooled by a ground source heat pump.

Although everything is grown with organic fertilizers, pesticides and amendments, the Green House Project is not certified organic because they don’t have the time, money or manpower to complete the process, according to Jones.

When the Green House Project was asked to move to Carson High School, president and founder Karen Abowd wanted to ensure the project would be safe regardless of school budgeting changes, so the project leases the land from the school district. The proceeds from the lease go to Future Farmers of America.

The food grown at this project is given to local food banks, except for about 10 percent, which is used by the culinary program at the high school. Students in the agricultural program at Carson High School are in the greenhouse often for classes, too.

Regularly throughout the day, about 25 special needs students can be found pulling weeds, planting or learning various skills. Two have been employed by the Greenhouse Garden Center because of skills learned at the greenhouse.

“The special needs kids are really the backbone of everything we do here,” Jones said. “They do their science classes, they practice motor skills, like students for example, it might have taken them 15 minutes to put gardening gloves on, and now it’s something they can do in five minutes or less on their own.”

Abowd believes this program is important in the community as a whole because of the skills it teaches those involved.

“Agriculture and sustainability is going to be ever-increasingly important,” Abowd said. “With global warming and with all the issues that this world is facing, being able to be sustainable is huge.”

The project also makes flower baskets that decorate downtown Carson City and will have a community supported agriculture program this year. It will include some flower bouquets, mushrooms and vegetables grown on site, and there will be 20 sign-ups for that program coming soon. There are also three more fundraisers coming up soon. On May 3, the project is hosting the Green Thumb Wellness Run—a 5K—with Carson Tahoe Hospital, and on May 10, there will be a spring plant sale at the greenhouse. Their largest fundraiser is the Concert Under the Stars featuring the Little River Band at Adele’s Restaurant on July 9.