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BRCC wins $1 million grant to build greenhouse for horticulture program

Two students in the BRCC horticulture program work on separating tropical pitcher plants in the college's greenhouse. (Photo Credit: RICH KEEN/ BRCC Marketing & Communications Two students in the BRCC horticulture program work on separating tropical pitcher plants in the college's greenhouse. (Photo Credit: RICH KEEN/ BRCC Marketing & Communications

Blue Ridge Community College has received a $1 million grant to fund a new greenhouse for its horticulture program, the Golden Leaf Foundation announced.

The new structure will enable students to maintain automated growing systems and teach skills valuable to area growers and agribusinesses.

The grant was one of 14 awarded by the Golden Leaf Board of Directors totaling $10.1 million for community-based projects in Western North Carolina. The grants will support workforce preparedness, job creation, economic investment and the agriculture industry in Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson and Madison counties.

“I am so pleased and excited about the opportunities this greenhouse will provide our students,” said Blue Ridge horticulture instructor Rachel Meriwether. “With the new greenhouse, we will be able to expand our conservatory and indoor plant program, as well as do more experimental jobs in the original greenhouse.”

Meriwether described the current greenhouse as a wonderful structure, but one the program is quickly outgrowing. The grant will add a state-of-the-art second greenhouse to the College where students will learn all about the green industry. In addition to growing plants, they will learn about marketing, budgeting, seasonal timing, year-round pest control, and more.

Lisa Adkins, Blue Ridge Vice President for Advancement, explained how the grant will support the College’s efforts to create a workforce training pipeline that supports the rapidly expanding grower industry in Henderson County.

"The number of new, commercial growers in the region is increasing, and current growers are expanding their operations,” she said. “Golden Leaf and Blue Ridge will not only provide trained professionals to fill these jobs, but also provide continuing education to help current employees advance their careers.”

Mark Williams, executive director of Agribusiness Henderson County (AgHC), explained that there is a global movement toward controlled environmental agriculture. Henderson County, he said, is well positioned for this movement with its climate, agricultural infrastructure and a successful history of greenhouse production since the 1970s.

“Blue Ridge has been growing its programs right along with the industry,” he said, “and this grant will further enhance the educational experience through the incorporation of the latest high-tech systems. Ultimately, it will be a major benefit to current and future greenhouse growers who critically need well-educated workers to fill the many good jobs they have to offer.”

Over the past two decades, Golden Leaf has funded 1,989 projects totaling $1.18 billion.