It’s close to bloom time for the Live & Learn Greenhouse, a Phi Theta Kappa project that will offer students the opportunity to have a hands-on experience growing plants and vegetables and learning about food sustainability.
For the last few months a group of close to 30 people including QCC faculty, led by project manager and PTK member and current student Dathiel Blake, have been working feverishly to get the greenhouse open and fully functional. A diverse group of breakout teams encompassing botany, automation, hydroponics and grant writing have come together to help the Live & Learn Greenhouse become a reality.
There’s really something for everyone,” said PTK member and current student Kyle Mondino, a self-professed person with a “black thumb,” who is the team lead for grant writing. “We are always looking for more people to help out and become part of this.”
The idea of the greenhouse came about through the need to address food insecurities on campus, according to PTK Advisor Bonnie Coleman. Food insecurities have become a real issue on campuses across the nation, particularly on community college campuses. A 2017 report published by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab surveyed 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states and found that two out three students were food insecure.
The Live & Learn Greenhouse Project is designed to provide not only a resource for healthy, nutrient-rich food for the Quinsigamond Community College community, but also an educational resource for QCC students, faculty, staff and children of the QCC Children’s School.
The greenhouse, which began in the spring, measures 7’ 4 ½”W x 14’ 7 ½”L and is located behind QCC’s Administration building at a former bus stop shelter. To date the plumbing for the water is completed and the lights, heating, exhaust fans and vents are installed. The project is waiting for the electrical to be completed, which is expected to be finished shortly.
“One of the really cool aspects of this project is that everything is automated. We will be able to control and check the doors, vents, temperature and even the PH levels,” Mr. Blake said. “We’ll also have a web camera. ”There is even talk of a robot sometime in the future.
The automation team is designing a system that will be housed on a server that enables anyone to view the greenhouse at anytime, as well as operate items such as the irrigation system remotely. This is still in the design stages, however, the goal is to have this live as soon as possible.
While the final push is underway to open the greenhouse, plants are currently germinating at the home of Ms. Coleman or in the PTK office. These include: sweet basil, spinach, chives, parsley, cucumbers, sage, lavender butterhead lettuce, kale eggplant, tomatoes, eucalyptus and a variety of sunflowers. They should be transplanted to the greenhouse shortly.
Once the Live & Learn Greenhouse is completely up and running there are still projects that will be available for anyone wishing to get involved, as the greenhouse will be in use 365 days of the year.
“We will be working on this every day. Anyone who is interested in gardening or food sustainability, we want your help,” said PTK Assistant Kayla Patterson.
The Live and Learn Greenhouse was partially funded by a $16,500 grant through the QCC Foundation. PTK’s Annual Fall Charity Cookout last September raised over $2,000 for the greenhouse and other events are scheduled throughout the year to help fund the project.
Donations of plants, seeds pots, soil, shelving and lighting, in addition to cash donations are always welcome. Anyone interested in making a donation or becoming involved can contact PTK or Ms. Colman in Room 349A.
Those looking to follow the progress of the Live & Learn Greenhouse can visit PTK’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.