University greenhouse sparks unique partnership

A greenhouse tucked away on a hill in the woods behind MSU-Meridian is the site of a unique partnership between the university, a community garden, and MCC's culinary program.

Having a greenhouse at MSU-Meridian has been a dream of Dr. Jarrod Fogarty, instructor of Biology at the university.  That dream became a reality in the spring of 2013.

"I'm really excited about finally having the greenhouse on campus.  I've already planted vegetable seedlings to demonstrate to students in some of my courses how to plant and harvest their own gardens. I can't wait until mid-April when the plants are growing and I can show them all that we have out there," said Fogarty.
"I also have a 50-gallon compost barrel outside the greenhouse for turning kitchen scraps into rich soil," he added.

In a class Plants and Humans that Fogarty is teaching this semester, he is also using the greenhouse to show the history of plants (agriculture) in human civilization, human nutritional needs and which plants meet those needs, as well as plant biology and the status of the nation's agricultural system today.

But it wasn't until Fogarty teamed up with Gail Barton, the retired horticulture instructor at MCC, that bigger plans for the greenhouse took shape.

The two have been working at the community garden, Love and Peas, located behind Cater's Market off North Hills street. People from the community meet at the garden every other week to plant and weed the garden. When the plants are ready to harvest, anyone that has helped out can come by anytime to pick whatever they want.  

Among those involved in the garden are students from MCC's Culinary program, who plan to use the vegetables from the garden for their cooking classes.  

"One Saturday while we were working at Love and Peas, Gail mentioned she was looking for a greenhouse to plant some seedlings until they would be ready to transport to the garden," recalled Fogarty. "I told her we had one at MSU-Meridian."

Barton and Fogarty have already spent one Saturday planting some of the 1500 seeds that will be moved to the community garden in about six weeks.

"These seeds will all produce edible plants such as chard (like lettuce), radishes, basil, snap peas, cabbage, arugula, and carrots.  We will plant tomatoes, peppers, and more herbs later in the spring," he added.

Also in the spring Fogarty hopes to build some raised garden beds surrounding the greenhouse to demonstrate to his students about alternative garden vegetables.

"I love experimenting with non-traditional vegetables like real heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, tindora (a small Indian cucumber), lemon grass, and some herbs such as lemon balm, blue hyssop, and bronze fennel."

As Fogarty maintains a close eye on the seedlings he's planted for his classes, plus those planted for the community garden, one thing is certain.  The greenhouse tucked away on the hill will be a hotbed of action this spring.

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