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Greenhouse, or hoop house, may augment KCS garden

October 2, 2008
MARTHA ALLEN, News Correspondent
KEENE VALLEY — Gardening is a tradition at Keene Central School, and the garden project has grown over the years. Now, Superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston is working on getting a hoop house, or greenhouse, to increase garden production. A committee of interested and knowledgeable community members is needed to research and brainstorm the possibilities.

“We know we need to extend our growing season,” Ford-Johnston said. A full scale, heated geenhouse would be great, but realistically would consume a great deal of time, energy and money to build, maintain and run. She is considering a hoop house, “basically a cover to keep in passive solar heat. A hoop house has benefits.” It would keep plants alive through November, she figures, and would also allow an earlier start in the spring.

“High Peaks Education Foundation has offered up to $5,000 and encouraged us to use it as a matching fund,” she explained. “It’s seed money. We need to have a very clear idea of what we want.”

Last year cafeteria director Julie Holbrook, with help from volunteers, created a large vegetable garden area behind the school’s new addition, near the pre-existing raised beds. Helpers brought in manure and donated time, seed and plants. Children planted seeds, dug potatoes and ate garden produce for their school lunches.

Sustainable food production is important to Holbrook, who hopes to involve the students in steps to a healthier and more natural diet. Last Thanksgiving, produce donated by local growers was served, celebrating KCS’s commitment to nutritional and environmental health. Not only is locally grown food fresher and more nutritious, Holbrook maintains, but eating locally is less cosly in terms of trucking and shipping and other energy costs.

Gardening is not new at KCS. Bunny Goodwin, who began the KCS Composting program in 1995, researched and wrote a grant to fund a project back in June 2000.

“The teachers really wanted to replace the school gardens that were lost during the KCS renovation expansion project,” Goodwin said at that time. KCS teachers Erin Perkins and Vanilla Wagner were instrumental in implementing the original project in 2001.

High school carpentry students designed and built raised beds, and then classmates dug compost from the KCS composting project into the soil. Elementary classes planted seeds and tended them by their schoolroom windows on the building’s south side until the time was right to plant.

The new gardens were built just outside the classrooms, facilitating participation of the elementary classes, who can walk out their back classroom doors into the garden space. Tools, seeds, plants and books were awarded through a Youth Gardening grant from the National Gardening Association.

Each elementary school classroom looks out on flower and vegetable beds. Although the frost is on the pumpkins — which the students are eagerly waiting to gather — the giant sunflowers are still frequented by birds, bees and butterflies.

The garden project has borne fruit in other ways as well, as teachers integrate its teachings into the curriculum of composting, and all related components of their grade-level curriculum.

Asked if she will participate in the new greenhouse/hoophouse committee, Holbrook said, “Of course! It will be too exciting and interesting to miss out on.”

Article Photos

Ceilidh Cheeseman, right, and Alyssah Martinez enjoy some freshly grown tomatoes.
Martha Allen/Lake Placid News



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