JABEZ, Ky. (June 25, 2012) — It’s taken a few years of planning and building, but a new greenhouse at the Lake Cumberland 4-H Educational Center is open for business — the business of educating people about horticultural and nursery crops.
Erected inside a deer-proof fence on the middle of what was a little-used tennis court, the new greenhouse is a fully automated 24-feet-by-30-feet structure paid for with a $42,500 Kentucky 4-H Venture grant from the Kentucky 4-H Foundation. The center’s director, Joyce Belcher, said she got the idea for the building while attending a conference at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center. After learning how the Arkansas center used their greenhouse to raise vegetables for their kitchen as well as for trainings, she returned to Jabez excited to try something similar in Kentucky.
Having previously worked for the Kentucky 4-H Foundation, Belcher knew that grants were available for projects like this. She also knew she had to pull together a team of experts to help plan the project and prepare the grant proposal.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to have some people on board with me — I’m not a specialist, I’m just a director.’ So that’s when I gathered up my committee,” she said.
Belcher brought together Extension Specialist Doug McLaren from the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry; Tim Coolong, UK vegetable specialist; Patricia Meads, who at the time was the horticulture extension agent for Woodford County; Beth Wilson, Pulaski County horticulture extension agent; Richard Whitis, the agricultural and natural resources extension agent for Pulaski County and Robert Anderson, now UK professor emeritus in floriculture.
“The reason that we wanted it was to have a place where agents could hold trainings to educate people on greenhouse plantings and seedlings,” Belcher said. “Doug (McLaren) wanted to do tree seedlings.”
Which is exactly what happened. In January, 500 American chestnut seeds were planted, with the intent of taking 100 seedlings to Pennsylvania in April to be planted at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville and using another 200 in reforestation efforts in Eastern Kentucky. Of the remaining seedlings, some were distributed to kids from military families at a Military Day celebration at Keeneland and the public received the rest at various Arbor Day celebrations. Around the same time, 1,000 redbud and 1,000 dogwood seeds were planted for extension agents in neighboring counties who were planning Arbor Day and Earth Day giveaways. And tucked away in the back of the greenhouse, Belcher and her staff planted pots of tomatoes, onions, peppers and carrots that are destined for the center’s kitchen.
“There are a lot of opportunities, there are a lot of possibilities,” she said and indicated that 4-H campers would also have a chance to learn about plants by using the facility throughout the summer.
“It’s just a small operation,” Belcher said, “but it kind of completes it (the center) down here.”