Summit High School is cooking up a plan for producing sustainable, local crops grown right in its own backyard.
Culinary instructor Erica Ewald said it would be an added benefit to have freshly picked lettuce, carrots, peppers and even strawberries in the kitchen for students to use.
“It’s a growing trend in the food service industry,” she said. “We are already giving students the opportunity to work in an industrial kitchen, so I wanted to give them the other side of things so they would have that experience too.”
The first fundraising event for the greenhouse will take place during parent-teacher conferences from 3:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, at the high school. The culinary team will host a silent auction, offering items in themed baskets, or individually, starting at $25. For example, the “Night Out” basket includes a stay at a local hotel, a gift certificate to a local restaurant and movie tickets; single pieces of artwork will also be up for bidding.
District spokeswoman Julie McCluskie said the idea is still in a very preliminary stage, and the school is using the fundraiser to help explore the possibility. If they do not pursue a greenhouse, she said, any funds raised would go back into supporting the culinary program.
“The district has a commitment to being green and sustainable whenever we can, so a greenhouse is a great creative idea for us to explore,” she said. “It’s an innovative way to make leaning real for students.”
Ewald said the greenhouse would help students appreciate their food more, since they will see the process from the start. Once the greenhouse is up and running, students in the culinary classes would have direct access to fresh, local ingredients year-round.
“I always thought it was special to see the process firsthand,” Ewald said.
The goal is to begin construction this summer, though they still have to get final approval from the school district. Ewald is working out the details, including size, but she estimates the greenhouse will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000. Ideally, the greenhouse would be able to connect to the school’s gas line, making it easier to heat it year-round.
“We aren’t going into this willy-nilly,” Ewald said. “This project is not going to go away after a year or something.”
Since the program is looking for community support to raise the necessary funds to build the greenhouse, Ewald said the school also has a few other fundraising events planned for the future and has applied for various grants as well.
There are almost 200 students — about one-third of the high school — in Ewald’s culinary classes. Once a month, she also hosts community cooking classes, Serving Up Summit.
If the greenhouse gets built, Ewald also plans to have one class dedicated to year-round greenhouse cooking.
Once the program gets going, Ewald sees setting up a community-supported agriculture program, with parents and teachers, in which community members can pay a flat fee to come and get a certain amount of produce every week or month.
She also hopes students might be able to sell at local farmers markets during the summer, so the produce doesn’t go to waste.
“In the beginning we will still be trying things out, so it will probably stay in the classroom, but once they are more familiar with the product we definitely want to open it up to the community” she said.
Ewald said any donations are welcome to help with the greenhouse project. For more information, contact her at (303) 859-1024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: This story originally stated the fundraiser would be held Thursday, March 19. The correct date is Wednedsay, March 19.