The recent announcement of a significant donation from philanthropist Morgan E. Cline is generating more good news for Centerville and Appanoose County.
Cline’s gift of $500,000 to Indian Hills Community College will facilitate the creation of what will be known as the Morgan E. Cline School of Sustainable Agriculture. The new project promises to catapult Indian Hills and the Centerville community to the forefront of food production in the Midwest, drawing attention from around the country.
The complex on the IHCC Centerville Campus will offer new cutting-edge opportunities for students and the community by creating a sustainable greenhouse operation. Once completed, the new complex, which will also include a welcome center, processing center and educational space, will offer a significant range of hands-on experiences and training for those interested in commercial and private food production. It will be a model for food production, becoming a huge asset to the community by generating college utilization and tourism.
Brydon Kaster, director of the new Morgan E. Cline School of Sustainable Agriculture, said, “Mr. Cline’s belief in our program will have an immediate and substantial impact on both our college and on the local community. Indian Hills has a number of academic and athletic programs that garner statewide, national and even international recognition. This project will be no different.
“People will travel to Centerville from around the country and, possibly, from around the world to see how they too might be able to create a sustainable greenhouse production business. And our current and future students will have a more diverse list of agronomy courses to choose from that will offer valuable hands-on experiences,” said Kaster.
IHCC students will be included in all stages of production and management. A student in the program will gain experience growing many different crops that could have a tremendous economic impact in the region. They will also be able to develop business plans for marketing the products that are grown. The facility will drastically change the level of retention for students as they will now have experiences that will directly coincide with the curriculum they are being exposed to.
This will be especially true for students who are new to agriculture. A typical week for a student will include classroom activities related to the current production stage in the greenhouse, followed by activities in the greenhouse to reinforce the concepts presented in class.
Appanoose County will also benefit in a number of ways. Those close to the project expect an increase in local entrepreneurship and jobs. Also, the college expects increased enrollment and there will be interesting educational opportunities for area residents.
The facility will offer a wide range of programs for those interested in sustainable agriculture, whether for personal gardening and consumption, or for commercial food production. These programs will help to develop the facility into a true community asset and a destination.
Now that the greenhouse project has been announced, there will be several events throughout the year that will be open to the public. One example would be a “Pick Your Plate Dinner” in which participants will meet for a tour of the facility and given a garden tote. During the tour participants will be able to pick fresh produce for their plate as they find items that appeal to them. After the tour, participants will move to the kitchen area for a fresh produce prep workshop in which best practices for preparing the various items will be shared. Attendees will then prepare their plate and enjoy.
Community members will also be able to gain valuable experience relevant to southern Iowa gardening with multiple backyard gardening classes scheduled during the year. Participants will gain experience with growing different crops and will be exposed to variations that occur throughout the growing season.
The facility will also be available for tours and should be of particular interest to area schools looking for educational excursions for their students.