Braxton Citizens' News, Community, Schools

New BCHS greenhouse to open Friday, April 29

By Shirley Shuman

The long-awaited BCHS greenhouse will open to the public Friday, April 29, agriculture instructor Josh Porto recently announced. The greenhouse, situated at the back of the high school parking lot, is the fulfillment of what Porto called “a labor of love.”  In the fall of 2018, he explained, he “had an epiphany”: The old greenhouse was functional but needed improvement. Those improvements will come later, the instructor said, but he followed the epiphany with the effort to build a new greenhouse. That effort was obviously successful.

Already operative, the new structure, which measures 30’ by 63’, is “full from door to door,” Porto said. Basically, it contains what the other greenhouse always carried— garden vegetable plants, herbs, flower plants, and hanging baskets. The vegetable plants contain a wide variety of tomatoes and peppers, and  the flower plants offer an array from which to choose.

Porto emphasized that all his students “get greenhouse time” and that the approximately 80 students “have done it all.” He noted, “I’m the facilitator and even though I do some of the actual seeding and transplanting, the students manage planting the seeds in the lab at the school building, then filling the pots, transplanting the seedlings, and moving those to  the greenhouse. Here the instructor explained that some of his students “find love and passion for the process.” 

Explaining the advantages of the new greenhouse, Porto noted, “It’s more accessible than it’s ever been,” and added, “With the location of the other greenhouse, there were actually people who didn’t know we had a greenhouse. Of course the new one is also larger.”

The current site of the new building has three distinct advantages for students. “It’s safer now,” the instructor said. “We’d been walking through the parking lot and down the road.” Students also have more actual time in the greenhouse since the site at the back of the parking lot is much closer than the site of the original building. Then, too, students are seeing a more modern structure. This structure has a full irrigation system, and it also has a hard plastic shell while the original one is covered with two layers of plastic film which must be replaced every five years. The updated covering will last 15 to 20 years.

The FFA advisor/teacher began working toward this greenhouse by studying and writing grants. His first success was $20,000 from Weyerhauser. Next he approached the Braxton County Board of Education, whose members “were on board with it,” he said. After that, he continued soliciting funds from many sources to reach the original goal of $80,000. In 2021, with BOE approval, he began soliciting bids for the construction. That effort was successful, and construction began.

Porto says that the is “really happy” with the results and hopes that those who shop for plants there will appreciate the new structure and its contents. He estimates that the greenhouse will be open two to three weeks and suggested that the best way to stay up to date on what’s available and the hours is to go to the FFA Facebook page.