County Ag Report: UMPI prepares to build Zillman Family Greenhouse

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - A new hands-on learning experience is coming to the University of Maine at Presque Isle. In this week's County Ag Report, Kathy McCarty speaks with Jason Johnston about the upcoming construction of a greenhouse on campus and how it will benefit the community, as well.

UMPI's location, in the middle of Aroostook County farmland, makes it a perfect spot to add a greenhouse. Jason Johnston, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, says the idea to build one began in 2013. It's now become a reality - creating a program that directly ties their new science program with the primary economic activity in the region.

"It's been a long road, but finally about next week we're gonna break ground on a greenhouse that will be constructed this summer and open for use by the fall semester."

The 30-foot by 80-foot structure will be a multi-use space, subdivided into three areas.

"We can do two research projects and education at the same time, so the education will certainly have university courses, plant biology will be offered there next fall, we'll have workshops in evenings, Saturdays. And the greenhouse will also be open to the community members for ideas, or to bring in FFA or student groups to come in and do projects."

Limited access to greenhouse space in The County makes the project all the more appealing, enriching educational opportunities in the field of agriculture for students of all ages.

"It's definitely not just for the college, and we really see UMPI finally having an ag program and a greenhouse that's connecting kinda the K to 16 pipeline, in ag, and then all the way through the research continuum that U-Maine is doing well down the road, and now we are situated right in the middle of that education research pipeline."

Johnston says support for the project has been incredible, especially in the agricultural community. The Zillman Family Greenhouse is being named after one of the largest donors, former UMPI President Don Zillman and his wife, Linda. Groundbreaking is expected to take place later this month.