Ag Center and Greenhouse could be ready for fall classes

by Kassidy Hart–In the school year of 2014-2015, Morningside bought Longfellow Elementary School and turned it into a space for art. As Morningside looks to grow their departments and their work, the site of the former elementary school has begun to transition to the future site of greenhouse for the Rosen Ag Center and Lags Greenhouse.

The official name of the building is still in the works, according to Dr. Thomas Paulsen, Associate Professor of Agriculture and Department Head of the Regina Roth Applied Agricultural and Food Studies Department. The development plan is already in place, however.

The center will include a 3300 square foot greenhouse and outdoor classroom space. It will provide “experiential learning for students in the department to include agronomic test plots, additional garden space, and room for potential addition of an orchard, perennial nursery, and other agricultural and learning showpieces,” Paulsen said.

Removal and abatement of the building’s asbestos has already begun, and demolition is expected to begin in mid to late April. Despite possible barriers, such as weather and construction timeline issues, the actual construction of the greenhouse and outdoor Ag classroom is slated for mid-summer, aiming for completion in early August so it can be used in the fall semester. 

“The need for Agricultural Lab facilities on campus, where students can experience various agricultural skills, is critical for the continued growth of the department,” Paulsen said.

Faculty and staff are excited for the future of the Agriculture department with this new facility, and as Ag Capstone students help develop the plan that will get the building up and running, they are realizing the benefits and getting excited for it as well. 

“Getting the opportunity to grow the plants and study them through the different stages as they grow is going to be really cool, and something I wish I would’ve had during my time here at Morningside,” senior Colin Schroeder said. 

Schroeder grew up helping his mom every winter in her greenhouse where she raised flowers and he helped with the current Morningside greenhouse on the second floor of the Walker Science Center. 

“It is really fascinating the different ways you can grow crops in a greenhouse,” Schroeder said.

Besides growing the current Ag department, it will pave the way for a bigger pool of prospective Ag students. 

“Not only will we be able to educate our kids more, but this is a great recruitment tool not only for the greenhouse, but for row crop corn/soybean farmers as well. This will help attract more students to Morningside that will, in turn, pay for itself, not only by more students coming in, but also by charging for our goods and services,” senior Cole Moes said. 

Outside of the Ag department, the greenhouse presents benefits for the Morningside Community.

“It will be huge for Morningside because this project will create news attention and is a great way to get eyes of people in the community on the exciting things happening here,” Schroeder said. “The greenhouse is going to provide freshly grown vegetables in the cafeteria [and they] are also going to get to see the growth processes of these plants from seed to consumption which is a really cool phenomenon.”

Paulsen said that once the Ag Center is completed, they will be hiring summer interns to assist with numerous production and research plots that will be implemented. 

April 5, 2021