MELBA, Idaho — Melba School District officials say an $8,000 grant from Monsanto Corp. will help instructors provide students a more realistic learning experience about agriculture.
The grant will be used to build a greenhouse that will provide high school students in the district’s ag education program a hands-on learning experience, said superintendent Andy Grover.
“It creates an opportunity for us to give them real-life, hands-on experience with agriculture,” said Grover, who grew up on a large grain farm in East Idaho. “Being able to do that is huge. It gets past just theory in the classroom to allowing them to actually grow things.”
About 100-120 students go through the district’s ag program each year, Grover said.
Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, a former farmer, helped the district apply for the grant.
The greenhouse will allow the district’s ag program “to give these students practical, hands-on experience in everything from irrigation to soil amendment to marketing and business skills — skills that are going to help develop them into employable, productive citizens in the agricultural industry,” she said.
Grover said the district has been trying to build a greenhouse for at least three years, but lacked the finances to pull the trigger on the project until now.
The district will start building the greenhouse this month.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without this grant,” he said. “This is what pushed us over the top so we could finally do this project.”
The grant was awarded through Monsanto’s vegetable seed division in Nampa. Brett Lolley, Monsanto’s Idaho production manager, said the division was looking for a project closely tied to farmers who grow Monsanto seed.
He said at least 15 percent of the company’s sweet corn seed is grown in this area and a lot of the division’s employees have children who have gone through or are going through the Melba school system.
“They have a really well-put-together plan of how they are going to use (the money) to teach kids about agriculture,” Lolley said.
Trent Clark, Monsanto’s public and government affairs director for this region, said Monsanto grants have already helped other school districts in Idaho such as Bancroft, Grace, Preston and Soda Springs build greenhouses.
“The day is going to come when every school district in Idaho has a Monsanto-built greenhouse,” he said.
Grover said district officials hope to set up a partnership with Monsanto that will enable the company’s employees to help teach Melba students about things like fertilizer, irrigation and genetics.
Lolley and Clark both said Monsanto would be happy to partner with the district to provide ag program students more specialized knowledge about agriculture.