Miller City Greenhouse - Putnam Sentinel
Miller City-New Cleveland High School student Trevor Niese waters the tomato plants he is beginning to grow in the school’s new greenhouse. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

MILLER CITY — Last December, the Sentinel reported on the development of a new greenhouse at Miller City-New Cleveland High School. Envisioned as a specialized learning tool for middle and high school biology classes, the agricultural department, and for the school’s environmental clubs to use for the envirothon, the greenhouse’s creation is funded through the Grow Rural Education grant program, sponsored by Monsanto.

“The Grow Rural Education program allows eligible farmers to nominate their local public school district for grants to help enhance STEM education,” says the initiatives website. “Once nominated, school districts submit applications to compete for $10,000 or $25,000 grants to help fund projects that enhance their STEM curriculum. These grants are helping to improve test scores, but better yet, they’re getting kids to think bigger about their tomorrow.”

According to John Koenig, the agriculture instructor and FFA adviser, the students led the application process themselves, seeking $25,000. The school was the only one selected in Ohio to receive funding. This kicked-off a community-wider effort to build the greenhouse.

Now that spring appears to have finally taken a firm hold throughout the area, the Sentinel returned to the school to check on the greenhouse’s progress.

“We have onions, some potatoes, radishes, and pineapple growing,” Koenig says as he shows off the young growth. “Next step is, I’ve located some benches. I have to make some modifications which won’t happen for another two weeks. But, once the benches are in here, then it’s going to be focused on production for what we can grow.”

According to Koenig, the focus will then shift to the courtyard area adjacent to the greenhouse. “During the summer, we are eagerly awaiting some grants to revolutionize this whole back corridor,” Koenig says. “In fact, tomorrow, there’s a landscaper from Columbus who is going to come up here and we’re going to sketch out further what our current plans are.”

“That means taking measurements and verifying exactly what it is we want to put out there. During summer, while we’re waiting on funds, we’ll do some of the basic teardowns and put up one or two raised beds. I’ll then have that ready as a supervised agriculture experience for some of my freshman who are about to be sophomores.”

“That’s the goal, do some basic stuff and once funds come in we’ll have the plans ready to execute everything. I’m excited.”

As he stated last December, Koenig believes that the experience provided by the greenhouse could lead to longer-term opportunities for the students, saying then, “It’s going to be huge. Delphos just put 40 or 60 acres under glass, I believe. I know up there in the Sandusky/Heron area there’s a Canadian firm that came in and put another 40 acres underneath glass.”

“So, I see the future in agriculture going more into the specialty lines and more season-long fresh produce. Which is what America is now requiring and the world is now requiring be put on their plates.”

“I see this as a great opportunity to introduce students another line of agriculture. I don’t believe we’ll ever get away from, especially here, row crops and basic livestock management. But, I think exposing students to this wonderful alternative would be a great opportunity.”