TCTC building greenhouse with help from Lowe’s and Skills USA

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — While construction season in Maine traditionally slows down this time of year, one project at the Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter is going full speed ahead.

    Students from the pre-tech program are building an 8-by-20-foot greenhouse that will help provide fresh vegetables year-round for the popular culinary arts program.
    In addition to the basics of carpentry, the pre-tech students are learning the value of teamwork, said Brian Welsh, the TCTC student services coordinator.
    “There are two teams building it,” he explained. “So the second shift may have to correct something that was done beforehand – and vice-versa.”
    To make room for the structure, some trees were cut and split into firewood which may be raffled off this fall to raise funds for programs and equipment for the center.
    No students were involved in the cutting, Welsh said, but they did do all the stacking.
    Funding for the greenhouse came from a $6,500 grant from Skills USA through Lowe’s Home Improvement, according to Welsh. “Eventually, we’d like to get a solar array to extend the growing season all year long,” he said. “But this is a great start.”
    Lowe’s is the largest corporate sponsor of Skills USA, a non-profit organization that helps high school and postsecondary students “excel through technical education coupled with training in leadership, character development and commitment to community service,” according to Lowe’s website.
    Undergraduate students enrolled in University of Maine’s Program Planning and Evaluation in Human Development were also instrumental in getting the greenhouse construction off the ground, according to Welsh. “They worked with our pre-tech program in the spring semester and wrote the grant,” he said. “They’re going to remain involved with us and we’re looking forward to continued collaboration.”
    Pre-tech students are freshmen and sophomores who take courses at the tech center on alternate days for three semesters. This gives them an opportunity to decide whether they want to enroll at TCTC permanently. “They may start out thinking they want to be a truck driver, but eventually wind up in criminal justice or building trades,” Welsh said.
    While a greenhouse may look like a simple structure from a distance, it isn’t. “It takes a lot of precision work,” said student Forrest Hunt. “Just a little dirt in the channel where the panels are fitted can affect the alignment.”
    Sometimes Hunt’s classmates inherited some problems on their shift, but they corrected them and moved on. “It takes a lot of patience to build something like this,” said Cody Sylvester. “You can’t get frustrated because something goes wrong. We’ll have this done before winter.”

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