Greenhouse to Table
It’s already springtime in Fay’s greenhouse, where the Greenhouse Club is planting and harvesting produce for the community.
The Root Building Greenhouse is coming alive this winter under the careful ministrations of Science Department Chair Tim McCauley and the newly-formed Greenhouse Club. The Greenhouse Club was launched as a new winter term option for X Period, an extended class period on Thursday afternoons when Upper School students can devote extra time to a special interest or passion.
Every Thursday afternoon, Tim and the club’s five members meet in the greenhouse to tend their plants. Next to the initial batch of lettuce trays, there are now sprouting spinach, tomato, carrot, and bean plants. The aspiring gardeners have also been experimenting with different soil mixtures to find the best planting medium for their seeds. They planted half of their first batch of lettuce seeds in a peaty potting soil and the second half in a denser soil from a Vermont company that specializes in compost. The lettuce in the compost tray grew significantly larger and lusher than its potting soil counterpart. Once the lettuce is fully grown, students will cut it back and regrow the leaves. They are hoping to provide a batch of fresh produce to the dining hall every two weeks.
The Greenhouse Club has also been exploring technologies to help them meet the unique demands of growing plants in the low light and extreme temperature swings of a New England winter. The club is planning to build its own temperature monitor and humidity gauge for the greenhouse that will sync to Fay’s network so they can monitor and adjust conditions in the greenhouse online. Tim also hopes to have a watering and heat lamp system set up on timers that can be monitored remotely as well.
While the club started with five regular members, it has also experienced its own form of organic growth. Several of Tim’s advisees regularly volunteer their time to tend the rows of plants and, he notes, “I have kids walking in from recess who are curious about what’s going on in the greenhouse, and they’re coming in and offering to help.” The Greenhouse Club is sowing the seeds of community farming at Fay.