New greenhouses to offer locally-grown, off-season produce in Prairie du Chien

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

The footings for the two new greenhouses were placed Monday behind the existing greenhouse on the Opportunity Center/Sharing Spaces grounds in Prairie du Chien. (Photo by Correne Martin)

Ground was broken last week for the Opportunity Center’s newest project: two hydroponic greenhouses, in which tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and possibly some other produce, will be grown out of season.

By Correne Martin

Locally-grown tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries will soon be available year-round at area food co-ops, thanks to two new greenhouses going up at the Opportunity Center in Prairie du Chien. These products will be grown by way of two different hydroponic systems inside the pair of greenhouses standing 30  by 100 feet each. The facilities are currently under construction—ground was broken last week—behind the center’s existing 22- by 75-foot greenhouse, which will remain in use for vegetables in season.

The new greenhouses are funded by numerous grants and donations as well as a small loan.

One of the main purposes of this project is to create additional duties for Opportunity Center clients, specifically jobs outside of the work center facility—as community-based employment is a high priority for them.

“We will have picking and packing areas inside where the clients will work,” Sharing Spaces Greenhouse Manager Dixie Toberman said. In addition to herself and someone in maintenance, there might be some volunteers working in the new spaces as well.

A second key objective for the greenhouses is to produce pesticide and chemical-free foods grown naturally that can be sold wholesale and enjoyed by local consumers from September through May. This means off-season strawberries purchased at Driftless Edibles in Prairie du Chien and co-ops in Gays Mills, Viroqua, Platteville and possibly Decorah, Iowa, will be fresher and produced in Crawford County, rather than Mexico or other warmer climates.

There is a possibility for some retail of the produce at the Opportunity Center site, and that would be sold in the bakery outlet on the grounds. The most probable retail are secondary products from the fruits and vegetables, such as salsas, jams and sauces.

“The kitchen is coming up with recipes so we can make those secondary products,” Sharing Spaces Kitchen and Greenhouse Marketing and Sales Director Andrea Oppermann said.

According to Toberman, the summer will be more of a revamping/replanting period.

It is expected to be mid-July before growth begins in the two greenhouses. Toberman said they will start out with 1,100 strawberry plants, 150 large slicer tomato plants, and 300 cucumber plants of the English and burpless/seedless variety. Harvest time is planned for the fall.

“If the market pushes us, we might consider herbs, and we will have the capability to double our strawberry plants too,” she added. “It’s going to be a lot and we’re really hoping this works out well for us. But it’s all about lighting and the right nutrients; it’s not like we’ll be weeding all of those plants.”

“We figured we need to go big or go home,” Oppermann said.

Nearly all of the companies working on the greenhouse project are local. Breaking ground last week, Peloch Construction, of Wauzeka, has been doing site prep work. H&N Plumbing & Heating, of Fennimore, will do the plumbing, and Renner Electric, of Patch Grove, is taking care of the electrical needs. Also a solar system from DH Solar, of Prairie du Chien, is being installed to help power the LED lights and fans, etc., and cover the cost of electricity in the greenhouse systems.

United Greenhouse Systems, of Edgerton, will set up the facilities and assemble the equipment on the interior. That process will take about four weeks.

According to Pam Ritchie, Opportunity Center executive director, funding for the greenhouses has come from four large grants/donations, some smaller donations, funds raised at the annual Opportunity Center golf outing and a small loan. The largest grant, of which the amount is undisclosed, came from ORC Industries, of La Crosse. ORC Industries, which also has offices in Brownsville, Texas, is a successful community rehab program like the Opportunity Center that decided in 2014 it wanted to give back to other community rehab programs so they could become more self-sufficient instead of relying on government funding. Other grants include: the USDA, $47,300, and the Wisconsin Knights of Columbus, $10,000. A private donor, the late Pat Shemak, a former Cabela’s employee who encouraged its campfire committee to fund the hydroponic greenhouse systems, also contributed $7,000.

Everyone at the Opportunity Center and Sharing Spaces Kitchen and Greenhouse is anxious to begin creating healthy, local food in the off-season.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet