JoAnne Skelly: Giving youth a chance to be excited about growing

I have a passion for growing plants. When I get to share that passion with youth, and when they too get excited about growing things, it makes my work very rewarding. I've been a team member on The Greenhouse Project in Carson City since 2008. TGP is a nonprofit corporation founded by volunteers. It is located at Carson High School and includes a 2,160 square foot commercial greenhouse, a 33-foot hoop house and 65 raised planter beds for cut flowers. Come spring there also will be a small orchard.

Having a greenhouse at the high school has been a great benefit to the students. There are four to six classes per week taught in the greenhouse by the agriculture teacher, with the help of the greenhouse manager. This project gives students, including special needs students, a place to learn new life skills that increase their knowledge about growing food. TGP is a benefit to the high school because the school gets a career technical training site at no cost for the facility, utilities or manager.

Student participation totaled 2,599 hours in 2012. Six to eight special needs youth participated daily through the school year getting horticulture job training. As AmeriCorp volunteers, three high school students managed the greenhouse for the summer, earning stipends and learning work skills. Another student was hired for the summer at Greenhouse Garden Center Nursery after working in the greenhouse at the high school the previous semester. Two students are doing their senior projects in the greenhouse - one is researching hydroponics and the other the viability of winter crop production in a hoop house.

From January 2012 to January this year, students grew and donated 1,574 pounds of produce to FISH and the Ron Wood Family Resource Center to feed Carson City's less fortunate. Students grew 53 pounds of produce for the high school's award-winning culinary arts program. Recently the salad bar run by the culinary arts students was stocked primarily with greens from TGP.

One teacher reports, "wouldn't have an agriculture or horticulture program at Carson High School without TGP. The students get work experience. TGP is an incredible win for the special needs students."

Another teacher says, "The kids had a great sense of accomplishment when they were able to deliver produce they had grown from seed to harvest to the culinary arts program at the high school."

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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