Agriscience projects at schools slated to begin in January

Published 5:29 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Construction on agriscience-related projects at local schools could start as early as January if weather permits.

Tommy Glasscock, Chilton County’s career tech supervisor, and project organizers shared plans for the future Thorsby Agricultural and Culinary Center with the Chilton County Board of Education in November.

The group also shared plans for constructing greenhouses at Thorsby and Jemison Middle schools with hopes of adding greenhouses at other local schools as funding becomes available.

The BOE approved to request bids on greenhouses for the two schools and could vote on whether to award bids at its meeting Dec. 17.

The projects will be partially funded by state grants earmarked for vocational education as well as community donations.

Budget figures provided by Glasscock indicate one greenhouse could cost about $40,000, and state funding is available.

If state grants do not completely cover project costs, other grants and local equipment money are potential alternative resources for project funding.

Along with Glasscock, organizers include Brian Lucas and Rachel Rachels from Thorsby; Ronni Parker and Clay Mims (Agriscience) and Raynette Ellison and Gail Mims (Family and Consumer Sciences) from Jemison; and Josh Phillips, Drafting Design instructor at LeCroy Career Technical Center, who has been involved in the design process for the Thorsby Agricultural and Culinary Center.

“As we prepare for our programs to move in more of a job-oriented direction, I think that more of culinary arts is the way to go for us,” Rachels told board members. “This center will allow us to be able to do that, and it will help some other areas help our students learn sustainability where they can grow things themselves and become less dependent on someone else.”

Organizers said the purpose of the center would be to teach self-sustainability and healthy living through hands-on experience in the new school garden and outdoor kitchen.

Lessons would focus on food production, harvesting, preparation and preservation.

Both high school and elementary-age students would have access to the center.

“We want to take concepts we teach in the classroom and apply them,” Lucas said. “I can actually show them real-world applications for things. It’s a proven fact that they learn by doing, and that’s what we want to accomplish.”

The center will be located on six acres of land the board purchased near Thorsby School and will include a greenhouse, seasonal crops, walking trails and an outdoor kitchen pavilion where students can learn methods of serving the crops they cultivate.

“We hope to involve several programs throughout the county in this project,” Glasscock told the board. “It has officially been kicked off, and hopefully, we’ll get your blessings on it and we can move forward.”

Detailed budget figures for the outdoor kitchen include the following: chicken coop, $1,200; 30-by-40 pavilion, $4,500; concrete and finishing, $2,600; plumbing for sinks and gas line, $3,500; three large grills, $1,500; stainless steel tables, $1,375; cooking equipment, $1,200; demonstration table, $375; two three-compartment sinks, $945; and refrigerator, $1,200.

Glasscock said the project is estimated to cost about $75,000 total at Thorsby and Jemison. The greenhouses will cost about $40,000.

Glasscock said he is unsure whether greenhouses and agricultural-culinary centers will be built at all schools in the county.

“We will look at the demographics and the strengths of each program,” Glasscock said. “Maplesville could likely be turf management, which would not include a greenhouse. Isabella has strengths under the leadership of Landon Lowery and Miriam Ratliff. We do something at each school.”