Western President Jay Helman Dedicates On Campus Greenhouse
Gunnison, CO – Step in from the cold on a below zero morning at the Western State Colorado University greenhouse and you’ll feel like you’re in the tropics. The air is humid, flowers bloom, and vegetables are ready to pick.
Western’s new greenhouse, located in the LEED certified Pinnacles Apartments on campus, is the result of a student-led initiative to grow produce locally despite Gunnison’s cold climate.
On most days you’ll find Western senior Kyle Brookens (click here to read Kyle's story) caring for plants or working on irrigation systems. Brookens, graduating this year with a degree in Environmental Studies, has worked tirelessly to get the facility up and running.
“I know that there are problems in this world, and I want to fix them,” Brookens says, “this is an important step in helping Western reduce its carbon footprint and bring local, healthy food to our students.”
“The greenhouse represents the coming-of-age of the student local food movement,” says Western Environmental Studies professor Dr. Jonathan Coop. “Growing food in our cold mountain climate is inherently challenging, and greenhouses represent one of many technologies that can add warmth and length to the growing season.”
The greenhouse also allows student gardeners to experiment and gain experience with a wide range of produce that would otherwise never survive in Gunnison’s climate. Students have an opportunity to practice year-round production and work with demonstration projects like an aquaponic/hydroponic food production ecosystem. Because most students are only on campus for the 8 months of the year least amenable for food production, the greenhouse provides a wide range of educational opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. The greenhouse will also allow students to grow produce for use by Western State Colorado University dining services during the school year when students can eat the fruits of their own labor.
“In short, the greenhouse is really a keystone piece of a student-led campus food production system that also includes campus gardens, a hoophouse, composting, and other initiatives,” Dr. Coop says.
A significant portion of the funding for the greenhouse came from a grant to the student sustainability fund written by two Environmental Study students: Brian Goldstein and Ian Oster. Both have stayed in the valley and are working on sustainable agriculture.
The greenhouse is just one of many student led sustainability initiatives at Western. Other efforts include a Renewable Energy Fee and Western’s participation in the American College and University President's Climate Commitment (UCPCC), which states that Western will strive to achieve a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2035.
To learn more about sustainability at Western, click here.
To learn more about Environmental Studies, click here.
-Written by Brian Barker, Western State Colorado University Director of Marketing & Media Relations