There was a lot of activity going on at Monroe Central Jr./Sr. High School on Friday evening. Not only was there a Junior High track meet, but there was a ribbon cutting for the newly renovated greenhouse at the school located between Farmland and Parker City. The history of the Monroe Central Jr./Sr. High School greenhouse goes back more than 30 years.
The idea of a greenhouse to use with vocational agricultural education classes ( as they were called then) appealed to long-time agriculture teacher Carlton Clevenger. Mr. Clevenger taught agriculture from 1964 until 1996 at Monroe Central. Clevenger was an agricultural educator for over 40 years, also teaching at Wayne, and Ward-Jackson schools. Clevenger loved plants, trees, and all types of cultivated vegetation. This love led him to investigate bringing new possibilities to the school and ways to build new opportunities for his students. Mr. Clevenger spent a considerable amount of time learning from others about how to grow various flowers and crops and how to utilize a greenhouse in a school setting. After much consideration and discussion with school supporters and the school board at the time, the decision was made to build a 26’x40’ greenhouse at the school. Ludy Greenhouse Mfg. of New Madison, Ohio built the original facility. This facility incorporated polycarbonate plastic roof and side panels, heating units, exhaust fans, and cooling pad humidity control. The original greenhouse was built in 1990 at Monroe Central under the watchful eye of Mr. Clevenger.
Horticulture science and plant and soil science classes were soon introduced and supported as student class options in the student curriculum. Some of the crops that classes grew included spring vegetables and flowers, tree seedlings and grafting work, and one of Mr. Clevenger’s favorites, poinsettias.
The greenhouse has been renovated and updated to more modern standards. It features an aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a technique in which aquatic animals provide nutrients needed by the plants. Similar techniques date back to the Aztecs and even Ancient China and Egypt. The greenhouse at Monroe Central has a tank of tilapia that provide nutrients and fertilizer for plants, currently they are growing green beans using this technique. Some of the beans are quite large.
The Greenhouse also features aeroponics. A technique where plants are grown without soil inside of a pvc pipe and periodically misted with water. This is a relatively new technique as the first aeroponic plant support structure was patented in 1983. More traditional means are also used to grow plants allowing students to learn a variety of techniques and methods of growing and caring for plants.
Many months of goal setting, planning, and working on possibilities led to successes, as well as some roadblocks. Finally a makeover plan that would fit and was supported came to light for a renovation. In 2020, despite the many challenges in the world, progress started taking place on renovating the structure.
New acrylite roofing, side panels, heating, cooling, shading, electrical, storage, tables, water system, and flooring all have brought new life to the original structure.
The new greenhouse also features a spacious storage building where equipment can be stored. The stone quarry in Ridgeville provided the crushed stone used near the greenhouse where five bedding areas have been set up. Pumpkins were originally planted, but fell victim to frost. The greenhouse also features a small weather station.
There are still a few finishing touches to be added, but with the countless hours of work put in by students, faculty and volunteers the greenhouse was opened in time for the plant sale that will begin on May 7. “We would like to thank all of those who helped to make this a possibility,” stated Monroe Central Ag Teacher Jim Weiler. “We’d especially like to thank Anne Taylor, the entire Taylor family have put in a lot of hard work to make this a reality,” added Monroe Central Ag Teacher Christy Thornburg.
The new greenhouse will allow generations of students to come the opportunity to learn a wide variety of methods and technologies used to grow healthy plants. Who knows, maybe one of the students will even end up developing some new ways to cultivate plants that will be revolutionary? Interested parties can keep an eye on the school’s Facebook page for updates as to what is happening in the greenhouse.