Greenhouse project in GF is joint effort
By Haley Schichtl
The Carroll County Resource Council, Green Forest Public Schools and the Jeremiah Recovery House are working together on a plan to provide locally sourced food to Carroll County schools while also benefiting people in need.
Vickie Poulson, founder and executive director of the Jeremiah Recovery House in Green Forest, is starting to grow food in a greenhouse near the shelter to help fund expansions.
The shelter helps women recover from addiction and traumas including homelessness, human trafficking, abuse and mental health issues, through a Christian-based two-year program. It eventually hopes to open up to children and men as well.
“Our program works with them to help them build their lives and get ready to be on their own and independent,” Poulson said. “We’d been looking for a social enterprise we could do that wouldn’t require a whole lot of people and would produce income for the home so we wouldn’t be a drain on the community.”
Poulson said the three partners are going to work on developing a program to show kids how to work a greenhouse.
“Our recovery house has been saving and planning for the greenhouse for quite some time,” Poulson said. “It’s all constructed and we just stated propagating, and we’ve had two crops of lettuce come through so far.”
Poulson said Green Forest is the first school district the shelter will work with, but it also would like to work with other Carroll County schools down the road.
Poulson said she will have to attend a meeting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington to discuss ways to integrate agricultural education into school curriculum.
Rob Kerby, executive director of the Resource Council, said a $50,000 USDA grant helped Poulson get the greenhouse up and running.
“They came to the Carroll County Resource Council and asked us if there was any way we could find any funding to help them,” Kerby said. “Turns out, school cafeterias are strongly encouraged by the Department of Agriculture to buy locally whenever they can.”
Kerby said they found out about the Farm to School Grant, which helps improve school access to local food, provides training and creates opportunities for agriculture programs in schools.
“We’ve seen with the pandemic that if the food supply is interrupted, that’s not a good thing,” Kerby said. “If you can buy from the greenhouse two blocks away from the cafeteria, it makes a whole lot better sense.”
Kerby said supporting the greenhouse is also supporting people who are trying to change their lives, rather than just putting money into someone’s pocket.
“Vickie has changed a bunch of lives. It’s a really remarkable program,” Kerby said. “They give them a place to live and help them straighten out their lives.”
Green Forest School District superintendent Matt Summers said the school district was very interested in getting fresh fruits and vegetables from the greenhouse.
“It’s right here in Green Forest, so transportation is not a big issue,” Summers said. “I think local is the only way to go. … Small towns have got one of two visions — to either survive or thrive — and Green Forest has always gone with thrive.”
Summers said the school district likes to be able to support the community and to get fresh food.
He said as far as bringing agriculture education into schools, there are no plans yet.
“High school does have agriculture classes, but this is more of a straight-to-the-table, home garden kind of thing,” Summers said.
To volunteer, donate, or learn more about the Jeremiah House, visit JeremiahHouse2911.org.