By Beth Christian Broschart
The Parsons Advocate
THOMAS – In November 2015, Dan Bucher visited with West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick and asked about the possibility of placing a high tunnel on the campus of Cortland Acres and on Monday, officials cut a ribbon to open the newly constructed greenhouse.
Cortland Acres Administrator Beth Clevenger said in January, Jerry Ours came out and visited the site.
“This is what you are looking at as a result of that visit,” Clevenger said. “It’s been cool because there have been about 30 different individuals who donated their time to make this happen. Leadership in the high tunnel was Jerry Ours, Lester Lind, Jeff Sickler and Paul Kirkendall.”
Clevenger said the high tunnel would allow for fresh produce, fresh vegetables and herbs for the kitchen for resident and for the campus.
“We are really excited,” she said. “I am in the process of changing Cortland to be a restaurant style dietary department. We are hiring a chef and the new chef we are looking at is very excited to be a part of this. He is into growing his own vegetables and herbs. He is really excited.”
Clevenger said everyone worked hard to get the high tunnel completed before bad weather started to set in. She said the greenhouse allows for some vegetables to be grown all year round and eliminates the need to purchase some things in the winter.
“We plan to grow our own,” she said. “We have had a lot of community support and we hope to continue to have that support. We had volunteers from the schools, 4-H Clubs and the Rubenstein Center. We have had great help and we want to continue that theme. This has really been a community project.”
Clevenger said Cortland was the first retirement community or long term care facility in the state to have a high tunnel greenhouse.
Ours said there are quite a few of the high tunnels at West Virginia high schools, vocational centers and the Mountaineer Challenge Academy.
“I think they will do some lettuce and in spring do cucumbers and tomatoes,” Ours said. “This one is ADA assessable with raised troughs. The Department of Agriculture supplies the kit to Cortland and they had volunteers to build it. We have 12 of these projects completed this year.”
Ours said the hope is to get more people interested in producing food.
“The Commissioner tells a story that West Virginians consume about $7 billion worth of food and we only produce less than $1 billion,” Ours said. “That leaves us with a $6 billion opportunity to supply food for ourselves in West Virginia.”
Ours said Commissioner Helmick could not make the ribbon cutting Monday but said he would be stopping by later in the week. “He has not seen it finished yet,” Ours said.