New Hampton FFA growing greenhouse program
By Jean Caspers-Simmet
Date Modified: 05/21/2012 2:01 PM
NEW HAMPTON, Iowa — Things are growing in the greenhouse at New Hampton High School.
Last year, New Hampton FFA proposed building a seasonal high tunnel greenhouse and a year-round greenhouse for education and to raise food.
A year later both greenhouses are up. One is teaming with plants and the other will soon be producing vegetables for the community and the school.
About $65,000 in cash and in-kind donations have been collected with $12,000 left to raise. Support has come from many individuals, businesses, the school, the FFA and FFA almuni, and nonprofit organizations.
A Plant Extravaganza fundraiser is scheduled May 1.
Sophomore Elisa Russ said that FFA members like herself can use the greenhouse for their Supervised Agricultural Experience, which can lead to Iowa or American FFA degrees.
Because the high tunnel will produce vegetables before school is back in session, New Hampton FFA will have a booth at the farmers' market this summer.
Junior Brandon Diesburg is among the FFA members who helped build the high tunnel.
The community is excited about the greenhouses. People often ask sophomore Emily Hammel what they're growing.
"You can tell by the level of donations we received that the community really supports this," Elisa Russ said.
Elisa Russ and Hammel belong to their school's Food and Fitness Chapter. One goal is to serve more local food for school lunch.
The high school agriculture students taught fifth and sixth grade students at St. Joseph's School how to take soil samples.
Agriculture instructor and FFA advisor Jim Russ said the chapter is working with grants — "Plant a Seed" from Pioneer Hi-Bred; "Food for All from Farmers Feeding the World" and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation; and "Helping Communities Grow through the Nutrients for Life Foundation."
Helping Communities Grow aims to make students more aware that gardens have nutrient needs. The FFA chapter has funds to soil test 40 to 50 gardens in the community. Once test results come back, FFA members explain the analysis. If additional nutrients are needed, the chapter offers three fertilizer spreaders.
Helping Communities Grow is a competition between 30 Iowa FFA chapters, which each received $500. New Hampton is among the top three chapters and is competing for prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
New Hampton FFA is raising and donating 50 pepper and 50 tomato plants to the food pantry, which will give the plants to its patrons. The chapter is also donating some vegetables it raises hydroponically during the winter to the pantry.
"It's one step to making people more self-sustainable," Jim Russ said.