SUBSCRIBE NOW
for home delivery

Elkhorn students use greenhouse to prepare for opening sale

Jonah Beleckis
Janesville Gazette
Elkhorn Area High School sophomore Gwen Richardson places blooming flowers into a planter Friday, April 20, 2018, in Elkhorn, Wis.

ELKHORN (AP) - David Kruse estimates that the world's population will grow by 2 billion more people over the next 35 years.

They will need food, fiber and fuel, the Elkhorn Area High School agri-science teacher said.

"The agriculture industry is going to be the industry that helps solve those issues," Kruse said. "The career opportunities in the agriculture industry are going to be huge in the next 35 years."

In a Friday, April 20, 2018 photo, teacher Dave Kruse, front right, assists sophomore Gwen Richardson during greenhouse crops class, at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, Wis. The class will sell the flowers at a bedding plants sale.

The Janesville Gazette reports that Elkhorn students have a new tool to help them prepare to work in that industry.

The new greenhouse at Elkhorn Area High School is up and running, and students are preparing for their grand opening sale, which starts Saturday, May 5.

The greenhouse's official name is the Plant Science Learning Center, Kruse said. It was part of a referendum voters approved in November 2016.

Kruse, who is in his 23rd year of teaching agri-science in Elkhorn, said students started growing plants in January and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early February.

Technically speaking, there are two greenhouses, each 24 feet by 60 feet, and a head house, which functions as a headquarters for the facility, Kruse said.

In a Friday, April 20, 2018 photo, Elkhorn Area High School sophomore Gwen Richardson rotates hanging plants at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, Wis.  The class will sell the flowers at a bedding plants sale.

One of the greenhouses is set up for more traditional production, including bedding plants and other flowers and vegetables.

The second greenhouse houses alternative agriculture, such as hydroponics — plant production that uses a water-based solution instead of soil — and aquaponics — which combines fish and plant production together.

The new greenhouse is "significantly more efficient" at regulating the climate inside compared to the previous facility, Kruse said.

Now that students have a greenhouse to use, they don't have to wait to see the concepts they learn put into action, he said. As they grow plants, they can see something go wrong and diagnose it in real time.

In a Friday, April 20, 2018 photo, Elkhorn Area High School junior Leo Ehlen picks dead flowers off the plants in the greenhouse during greenhouse crops class in Elkhorn, Wis. The greenhouses are used by two classes, horticulture and greenhouse crops.

"It's something more than just taking an answer from a reading or textbook," he said. "This is learning about the concepts, seeing it in action.

"So it really becomes a problem-based learning opportunity for those students," he said.

Students do not have to wait until they are in the workforce to practice in agri-science, Kruse said. The school district encourages them to explore career applications for what they learn while they're still in school.

In a Friday, April 20, 2018 photo, Elkhorn Area High School senior David Eucker waters plants in one of the school's two greenhousesduring a greenhouse crops class in Elkhorn, Wis. The class will sell the flowers at a bedding plants sale.

Students also will gain experience in marketing and retail management at the greenhouse plant sale next month, Kruse said. Managing that side of the business as well as the plant part helps students see the "full-fledged approach."

The sale will take place in the new headquarters space, Kruse said.

The FFA invests in all the plant material, soil and containers, so proceeds from the sale will go to the FFA, he said.

Kruse said the school is considering expanding the greenhouse's reach in the future.

"This investment in this facility has been a tremendous opportunity for the students, not only in the agricultural education department, but we are looking to make this also a service to the community," he said.

"We're looking forward to really becoming an education outreach facility that we will be able to share with community members down the road as well."