As time moves forward and technology evolves, so do methods of food production. Now, more than ever, farmers are transitioning to acquire more technology for their production needs. How are we teaching our future farmers about agriculture technology and its benefits? Through our school systems.
Agriculture programs nation-wide are acknowledging the importance of teaching students up-to-date and profitable methods of producing food crops. Utilizing Controlled Environment Agriculture or CEA technologies such as a greenhouse can increase crop quality, extend harvest seasons, and reduce the need for harmful chemicals. State-wide initiatives have supported the funding for many public schools to purchase their own greenhouse to give students a hands-on approach to learning.
Unfortunately, a CEA greenhouse with all the bells and whistles does not maintain itself. With proper care, greenhouses can function for many years without replacing many materials. It depends on cleaning schedules and routine maintenance. Many schools are struggling to keep their greenhouse functioning for more than five years. Some opt to just purchase an entirely new greenhouse though, with proper care, the current structure could be revived. Is this what we should be teaching our future farmers in an already "throw-away" society?
The problem is training. Greenhouse supply companies are eager to prepare a "greenhouse kit" and help secure a building contractor, but they rarely offer technical assistance and maintenance training to purchasers. Instructors are happy to prepare a curriculum and plant sale events, but rarely have the time to properly educate themselves or conduct the "best practices" for keeping the structure functioning at its optimum. Another issue arises when an agriculture instructor is replaced with an educator with little to no experience in the field.
Seeing the need, horticulture/ agriculture industry participants are stepping up to host "Greenhouse Maintenance Training". Greenhouse Mega Store representative, Dave Langlois stated," There is a big push in our company to develop technical assistance programs for our buyers, many of which are public schools." The company has partnered with a state liaison, GSS Group LLC, to organize multiple training events for agriculture instructors across the nation. The first training was held at Magnet Cove Arkansas public schools. Attendees were provided hand-outs, four lectures, lunch, and a greenhouse maintenance scavenger hunt. The intent was to get instructors familiar with CEA structures and technologies along with the best practices to maintain and increase their longevity. The training closed with a certificate of completion and an open panel discussion.
The companies plan to move forward with hosting additional maintenance training events and developing more specialized sessions to include greenhouse electrical and plumbing construction. The goal is to give instructors more confidence about their CEA structure and equipment. This confidence should translate into a healthier work environment and the ability to set a successful example for future food producers.
If your school is interested in hosting a Greenhouse Maintenance Training, please feel free to reach out to GSS Group at https://www.gssgroupllc.org/contact to schedule an event for your state's agriculture instructors!