After three years in the planning stage, the Middlebrook Greenhouse was officially pronounced open Monday evening, April 22, in a ribbon cutting ceremony at Middlebrook School. The greenhouse was generously funded by the Wilton Educational Foundation (WEF) and Wilton Continuing Education.
Receiving a lion’s share of the credit for the project was Middlebrook culinary arts teacher Heather Priest.
Brian Ladewig, WEF co-chair started that trend. ‘Thanks, and a credit to Heather, your vision for what’s possible with students in terms of thinking about how to connect home, careers and sustainable agriculture and all that great work. It is such a credit to the spirit of Middlebrook School. Thanks for our Eagle Scouts who helped to build out the raised beds inside. The WEF board appreciates that too,” he said.
His WEF co-chair Renee Cahill, agreed. “I am so impressed , it’s as beautiful as we thought it would be, all the back and forth, it was worth it.”
Schools superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith recalled the genesis of the Greenhouse project.
“Imagine, it’s January 2016, a little snow on the ground, there were raised bed gardens all the way through [the courtyard area where the greenhouse is now], Heather was renovating her house and had brought in all her old windows to act as covers on the raised beds. ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a greenhouse?’ Heather remarked, ‘So I wouldn’t have to bring in all my old windows, we could grow all year round, and kids who were taking Family Consumer Science in winter would have a comparable experience with those taking it in the warmer months?'”
Securing funding for the project early on was the easy part, thanks to WEF and Continuing Ed. However, as Smith recounted, there were other hurdles to overcome with several different aspects of the project.
“There was a problem with everything else–the size of the greenhouse, the location, the heat, the lights, the water, the corrugated roof, the drainage, the egress, the ingress. One by one, all the issues were sorted out and two-and-a-half years later, in October 2018, we finally received a certificate of occupancy from the town.”
Emily Dowden from Wilton Continuing Education said she was excited about the program possibilities the greenhouse offers.
“We are happy to support sustainability and growing student programs like this one and the needs of our students. Thank you, Heather. This summer we will be offering a farm to table program for our students. It will be held here at Middlebrook and run by Heather.”