After years of hard work, Kate Dean is almost ready to open the doors

For years, Estacada High School science teacher Kate Dean looked around and saw something that other schools had and Estacada didn’t: a greenhouse.

by: PHOTOS BY JEFF SPIEGEL - Estacada High School science teacher Kate Dean and student Riley Stetson stand in the schools new greenhouse. Dean spearheaded the six-year quest for a greenhouse but couldnt have done it without the help of students and volunteers like Stetson.

Come January, that difference no longer will exist.

After six years of hard work, piece-by-piece accumulation of parts and hours of community involvement, the Estacada greenhouse is set to open in January 2013.

Interestingly enough, one of the setbacks that the program has met is the process of finding parts it received years ago.

The process of bringing the greenhouse to the high school officially began six years ago when Dean located an old greenhouse for sale in Hood River. Turned out the greenhouse used to be owned by the Reynolds School District.

“The search started while looking for a cheap structure,” Dean said. “We found a guy in Hood River who had bought the pieces from Reynolds five years earlier, but his business plans had fallen through.”

Needing to find a way to get the pieces to Estacada, Dean and a group of volunteers transported the greenhouse piece by piece.

The next problem was finding out how to put the thing together.

“We had pictures of what it looked like in Reynolds, and so that’s what we had to use to piece it together,” Dean said. “The second step was having the high school construction class start putting up the frame of the structure, but even they could get so far.”

With the structure purchased, Dean and the district were officially “all-in” on making the project a success. Dean estimates that the structure cost about $9,000 — a pretty good deal considering Reynolds had paid $60,000 just a few years earlier.

For Dean, the desire for this project to be completed was absolutely necessary.

“Ultimately it will be utilized by the horticulture program, and our hope is that it will attract more students,” she said. “Right now, I have to rotate the horticulture class every other year, but with the greenhouse we’re now working to articulate the class to community colleges so students can get college credit for it.”

Prior to the greenhouse, Dean was running the horticulture class out of a storage closet in her classroom — a small space that once housed up to 150 hanging baskets for an FFH program.

With the greenhouse, not only will Dean be able to conduct her own classes, but there will be some room for SEED (Stewarding an Edible Estacada School District) to operate.

The SEED program helped with the project by acquiring a grant for the purchase of panels that were missing from the original structure, as well as providing a number of volunteers who helped complete the project.

SEED’s goal is to develop a districtwide school gardening program that is self-supporting. While the space in the greenhouse won’t allow SEED to grow enough food for the entire district, the hope is that it brings the program a little closer to that goal.

Aside from the purchase of the structure, the other major item needed was a super-high-efficiency heater, which was paid for by a county grant. The district also needed to get electrical and water hookups to the greenhouse, which turned out to be one of the largest hurdles.

Dean estimates the cost of the greenhouse at $12,000 when all is said and done. However, one aspect that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the potential profitability of the space.

“Five years before I got here, there was a greenhouse in back of the school, and it was a big money maker,” Dean said. “They were renowned for their hanging plants.”

With that as a backdrop, Dean has dreams of an annual plant sale that would be introduced in 2013 and a spot at the Estacada farmers market.

“I’d like to make some money to go back into the greenhouse,” she said. “We could sell vegetable starts, hanging plants and flowers. If we assume that the space would be fully successful, we could be looking at making $5,000-$10,000 each year. There’s a lot of money to be made.”

Though the financial benefits of the structure are nice, Dean insists that the priority will always be on education first and foremost.

The school district's goal in hiring Dean was to revive the agricultural studies program in town. With the introduction of this greenhouse in January, it’s getting closer to a time when everyone can look back and say: Mission accomplished.

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