Rotary Greenhouse blooms

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM

There’s a new eco-friendly learning center up and running at Coalition for Kids, a 20- by 40-foot greenhouse purchased, built and equipped for the nonprofit after-school program by the Rotary Club of Johnson City.

The Rotary Greenhouse located just outside the coalition’s community center on Watauga Road has been under construction for about six weeks. Its first seeds went into the soil after school Thursday as club members joined the coalition’s children and staff in a mass potting of about 30 varieties of vegetables.

“It’s amazing how many kids we can pack in there,” Lisa Marie Pearson, the coalition’s very pleased director of development, said as she watched hands young and old digging in.

“We had so much fun just dreaming about all the facets of learning in this, hands-on learning in growing, science and business. And we were just talking about a small 12- by-12 greenhouse people put in their backyards. This goes so far above of and beyond the realm of anything we talked about.”

Club President Shelley Brouillette said funding for the greenhouse began with a $3,000 grant from the Rotary District. The club matched that amount. Wayne Torbett of Wayne Torbett Greenhouses in Piney Flats gave extended a very generous discount on the cost. And the club members donated all the labor that went into its assembly.

On Thursday, the Rotarians were still at work on the rainwater-collection system that will divert runoff from the roof of the community center to the greenhouse watering system.

“We’re calling it the green greenhouse,” Coalition for Kids’ Executive Director Randy Hensley said. “It’s got a lot of potential for our kids to learn. They’ll learn to grow things in here and we’ve talked about the possibility of taking some things to the farmers market to sell and see how that goes.”

Torbett family members have volunteered to help the coalition manage the greenhouse, and Hensley said his hopes are that many other people with experience and expertise in the many intricacies of greenhouse operations will volunteer to help the children keep it running as well.

“On behalf of our kids, our board and the coalition, I want to thank the Rotary organization,” Hensley said.

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