November 3, 2011

Cornell Helps to Build Greenhouses at Schools

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To teach children about farming, the Cornell Cooperative Extension and Department of Horticulture recently launched an initiative to install “high tunnels” — unheated, arched plastic greenhouses — in selected school gardens in New York State, according to a University press release on Oct. 26.Under the initiative, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, high tunnels will be assembled for six schools within the next three years. Since the spring, three have already been erected.This program is not only meant to incorporate farming lessons into the curriculum of the schools, but also to teach children the health value of the food they are growing, the press release stated.“Part of it is how the vegetables are grown, but a big piece of it, for us, is the healthy nutrition aspect,” said Brian Hunt, superintendent of Edmeston Central School in Otsego County, N.Y., which received a  greenhouse this year.Although program coordinator Prof. Chris Wien, horticulture, said it is too early to judge the success of the program, he sees many advantages in the unheated greenhouses, which extend the growing season.“We don’t incur the big cost of putting in a heating system and supplying heat over winter, since heating is done in the structure by the sun,” Wien said. “We are also able to increase the length of the growing season, so the kids are able to garden for a much longer period of time.”The program has been well received by Edmeston parents thus far, according to Hunt.“I’ve heard positive comments from parents about it how they like how the kids are learning about food and where it comes from because we’re still a farming community here,” Hunt said.Wien is looking to expand the unheated greenhouse installation initiative by applying for more grant money to extend the program into other schools. He also said he hopes to work with community gardens.  Because rural communities are more familiar with farming, more urban areas may be recipients of future grant money.  “We’re hoping to focus more on urban environments because students and teachers aren’t as exposed to agriculture and growing their own food,” Wien said.  “So the advantage of having such a program is higher in an urban school than, perhaps, in a rural one.”

Original Author: Caroline Simon