Cadott greenhouse grows student opportunities
Even with winter weather setting in, new life has sprung up, thanks to a new greenhouse located on the east side of the Cadott High School.
The greenhouse has already gotten good use, even without students in the classroom part of the year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The greenhouse has been functional since October, when Cadott agriculture teacher Keith Becker and others began moving plants into the outbuilding.
“We’ve got kids in here, planting plants, making cuttings, planting seeds, doing experiments,” said Becker.
Middle school students are working with household plants and will get to take a plant home. Students in an agri-science class are doing germination experiments with apple trees.
Other students are studying the impact of compacted soils, and if the plant pot color has any effect on plant germination and growth rate.
“Sometimes, I’ll just take the kids...just to have a greenhouse break, because it’s a nice place to go,” said Becker.
Becker says he would like to hold an agriscience fair, but is unsure if it will be possible this year. He says they are also planning to hold a spring plant sale for the community.
“It’s pretty nice,” said Becker of the greenhouse. “It’s all temp controlled.”
A sensor hanging from the ceiling monitors heat and humidity in the building. Based off those readings, the system will adjust itself, such as by automatically opening the top or side vents. Becker says there are always fans running to keep the moisture from condensing.
There are also grow lights in the greenhouse, set to a pinkish-purple spectrum, which lends to the greenhouse’s colored glow at night, as some plants require 16 hours of light for optimal growth.
“The spectrum we have it on is the best for growth,” said Becker, adding they could change the color spectrum to other colors, if they wanted.
An aquaponics system is also located in the greenhouse, now. There are 40 Tilapia in the approximately 300 gallon system. The fish are fertilizing lettuce plants, which should be ready for harvest in early January, and will be used by the school lunch program.
“We’ll be doing that continuously and I’m thinking that we might run it through the summer,” said Becker.
Becker also has hydroponic experiments started in the greenhouse, where the growth of cucumbers, beans and tomatoes watered from a Bluegill tank, and grown in rockwool cubes, is compared to the growth rates of those grown in a soil medium.
He says he would eventually like to grow other vegetables for the food program in the greenhouse.
Becker says they might get a summer greenhouse manager, if they decide to grow year-round, with Becker supervising the project. The position would provide another opportunity to grow career skills for students interested in plants.
The greenhouse, and the opportunities it affords, were made possible, in large part, because of a $30,000 donation by the Cadott FFA Alumni.
“The majority of it was funded by the FFA Alumni,” said Becker.
The school district funded the remainder of the costs for the outbuilding.
Becker says volunteers and the maintenance department helped him erect the structure, which he estimates was nearly $20,000 cheaper than hiring the work done.
He says the greenhouse will be around for a long time for students and the community to reap benefits from.
“We’re just really happy for the community support and the school district support, so we could put this up for the kids,” said Becker. “I’m really grateful for it.”Cadott agriculture teacher Keith Becker shows off the root systems of lettuce plants, grown in an aquaponics system, located in the school’s new greenhouse. Becker says the white roots are a sign of a healthy plant and estimates the greens should be ready to harvest in January. The lettuce grown in the greenhouse will be used by the school lunch program. The greenhouse contains a sensor (inset) which monitors the temperature and humidity. The system can automatically make adjustments, as needed, such as opening vents. Photos by Julia Wolf [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="381"] Students have already had the opportunity to use the greenhouse. They are doing plant cuttings and a number of experiments related to plant growth and health. The Cadott School District has a new greenhouse (inset), located on the east side of the high school. The building was partially funded, thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Cadott FFA Alumni. Photos by Julia Wolf[/caption]