Editor’s Note: Last fall, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of our Farm to Fork program, Bon Appétit gave away $50,000 in grants to our local farmers, fishermen, and artisans around the country to help them grow their business.The 10 “Fork to Farm” grant recipients were selected from 25 finalists by our guests and teams at all our locations, with more than 26,000 people casting votes! (Read all about the program and the winners here.) We have been posting updates on their progress.
Thanks to the campus-based voting for the grant finalists, everyone on campus knows about the greenhouse project for the Campus Community Farm (CCF) at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s City. This meant that plenty of campus groups could be tapped to help with building out the project.
First, CCF Advisor Kate Chandler and CCF Coordinators Eva Shpak and Shani Mink spent time further researching what kind of greenhouse would be best for the little farm, which mostly serves the campus during the school year. They visited various farmers and gardeners and toured their greenhouses for information. Most had built their structures from kits, even the larger hoop houses. After learning about everything from foundations to building materials, they realized that because seed starting was the primary problem they wanted to solve, the original plan of a hoop house was not what they needed.
They decided to build a greenhouse instead and are delighted with it. The 8-by-12-foot Sunshine Greenhouse from ACF Greenhouses reflects older wooden frame houses of historic St. Mary’s City and is expandable. Also the price point left CCF with enough funds to cover the foundation, piping, a heater, and other expenses!
The first stage was to put down the foundation and dig the trenches for water and electricity. In late January, Eva and Shani arranged for the local Habitat for Humanity and other campus club members to assist. (The Habitat club members wanted as much practice as possible developing building skills before their big spring break volunteer project.)
Almost 50 volunteers showed up to help, more than any volunteer group at the farm so far! The weather cooperated completely, including the rain. The original Saturday plan got rained out; when volunteers showed up Sunday, the ground softened by the rain allowed all the digging to be completed in 40 minutes, far less than the many hours anticipated. The low 50s temperature was also warmer than other recent days, making for a perfect outdoor building day. Other projects were able to get completed with so many volunteers, such as a stand to hold new (and large!) signage for the farm.
In April, the campus farmers and Habitat members came together again to complete the greenhouse structure. Eva reports, “It looks great and we can’t wait to extend our growing season next year.”