Knowing what your food has been through to get to you is an important part of sustainable thinking, and buying things locally is even better. Soon, you may start to see salad greens and herbs in the scramble room that were grown in Principia’s own greenhouse.
Ellie Stevens and Mike Rechlin of the biology department, along with Trey McCartt, Assistant Director of Dining Services Operations, and student workers, are undertaking a project to revamp and expand the greenhouse on campus to encourage more community members to use and appreciate this space.
When she came back after this winter break, Stevens interviewed the biology department’s student workers and discovered that a new direction was needed in the greenhouse.
In the past, the greenhouse has mostly been devoted to plant aesthetics, which Stevens feels is only a small part of what makes plants so appreciable. While the project is still in a conceptual stage, Stevens said she would “like to have it represent a greater spectrum of plant appreciation.” She hopes it will soon house herbs and salad greens for the use of Dining Services in addition to plants for capstone projects and other research.
McCartt already grows his own herbs, some of which he incorporates in certain scramble room dishes, such as mint sauces.
Stevens expressed the importance of scientific study, no matter how casual. Children may see a tiger lily and think it’s cool, and that might start their love for plants, but, she said, it can’t end there. The improved greenhouse will be a place where anyone from the community can come in to observe and admire plants of all sorts.
Amber Dahlin / photo
The greenhouse staff already has herb seeds on hand for planting this quarter so the produce will be ready for harvest and use by spring.
Student worker Austin Kingsbery, a sophomore, said that many plants in the greenhouse are ailing, too big for their pots, or just not functional. To make room for more interesting and useful plants, Kingsbery and the greenhouse manager, senior Amanda Stephenson, hosted a plant sale this week. In exchange for plants, they took donations for relief efforts in Haiti. The total donation amount earned was $551.93. Donations will be accepted for larger plants that are well-suited for office spaces until Wednesday of Week 4.
Stevens said that the purpose of the greenhouse should really be to serve the local community and to house community-supported agriculture, and that it hasn’t completely fulfilled that purpose in recent years. It has provided a place for Elsah’s Three Rivers Community farm to raise certain temperature-sensitive vegetables like peppers and tomatoes. Stevens said she hopes to maintain and expand that relationship.
Kingsbery said that Stevens came in at a good point with a lot of time to focus on the project. About the change, he said, “I’m excited about having Dining Services in [the greenhouse]…We want it to be of good quality because we’re going to eat it. Now we have a reason to go out and get new tools, a reason to use those tools correctly, and a reason to clean things up.” Previously, only a few plants were used in one or two biology classes, but now plants will be used for several different purposes, making it more important that the space is well-maintained.
In the coming weeks, a lot of change will be taking place in the greenhouse. As Stevens said, “This is the next chapter in the story of the greenhouse.” Students and other community members are welcome to visit at anytime to see these exciting updates for themselves.