Middlebrook looks to add greenhouse

Over the past three years, culinary arts teacher Heather Priest has increased Middlebrook’s family and consumer science department’s emphasis on sustainability and wellness, and now she’s looking to add a greenhouse to the middle school’s two-year-old organic garden.

The garden has 20 raised beds that provided produce for students to create dishes like kale salad, broccoli soup, tomato and pesto pizzas, salsa, and caramelized onion dip this year, Priest told the Board of Education during its June 9 meeting.

Not only did students enjoy the garden’s harvest this year, said Priest, but they also:

  • Tested soil and amended it with organic fertilizer.

  • Studied the science behind compost.

  • Analyzed sustainable practices.

  • Plotted future seedling and sowing timelines.

  • Hosted more than 2000 red worms.

Students were able to harvest into January this year with the use of cold frames, which allowed them to make fresh spinach pasta in the middle of the winter, said Priest.

With cold months lasting most of the school year’s third quarter, Priest said, “we are growing microgreens in the classroom to provide students with the opportunity to watch plants grow and harvest them.”

Priest said “every quarter has a different experience” and incorporating a greenhouse would give students variety across the year.

“I could just imagine what it would be like to have these two extra months — getting their hands in the dirt and not the snow during this class,” she said.

Priest said the addition of a greenhouse would “really just make [the family and consumer science] curriculum whole,” and could increase the school’s ability to sustain the entire program by providing produce and learning experiences for all students.

“All students would gain year-round access to fresh produce and participate in gardening experiences that otherwise would not be possible during the harsh New England winters,” Priest wrote in a statement shared with the education board.

The greenhouse would go on a 200-square-foot space in the organic garden courtyard, where there’s “drainage underneath; propane tanks under the roof that can piped into the warm, and electrical water already into the courtyard — many of the things that we would require to build a greenhouse and get it up and running,” said Priest.

Last summer, Priest said, she started looking at greenhouses measuring about 17 feet by 25-30 feet.

“I called a bunch of places around Connecticut and tried to find quotes for reasonable prices for someone to come in and either built this from scratch or do a fit,” she said.

Priest received two proposals, which Middlebrook Principal Maria Coleman said have been presented to the Wilton Education Foundation (WEF).

“We’re not certain whether we’re going to go with those proposals or go with others,” said Coleman. “However, WEF did approve of a certain amount.”