NYSSA, Ore. — Nyssa High School will use a $25,000 grant from Monsanto Corp. to build a modern greenhouse that will allow ag education students to perform advanced science-based experiments.
The grant was awarded by Monsanto through the company’s regional Seminis vegetable seeds division. A ceremonial check was presented to school district officials Aug. 25 at the farm of Paul Skeen.
The money will cover the cost of purchasing advanced testing equipment, such as probes and sensors, as well as specialized data collection and analysis software.
Nyssa ag education students currently grow tomatoes and hanging baskets and raise tilapia in two old greenhouses and a fish lab.
The much larger, modern greenhouse will allow the school’s ag education program to move to the next level and do science-based research, including experimenting with different rates of fertilizer and conducting water, temperature, oxygen and soil pH testing.
“It will be a lot of hands-on, science-based experiments,” said Nyssa ag education teacher Chad Cruickshank. “This grant is going to give us the technology that will allow these kids to go out and actually apply what we’re teaching them in a real-life situation.”
The new greenhouse will also allow students to use fish bio-waste to grow produce and learn about pest management and other skills they will need if they move on to a career in agriculture, Cruickshank said.
“Kids like hands-on learning so it’s going to add more opportunities for student learning,” he said. “By adding more opportunities, we’ll spark more interest and may be able to hold more kids within the agricultural industry.”
The project will include adding raised garden beds in the greenhouse, which will allow the program to grow more crops and possibly do some research on onions and other major crops grown in the area, Cruickshank said.
The new equipment will allow students to apply the scientific process to what they’re learning in the classroom, said Tiffany Cruickshank, who wrote the grant application and is Chad Cruickshank’s wife.
“Science is so integrated with agriculture now and it’s very important for these kids to have access to this type of technology to prepare them for the future,” she said. “There are so many jobs available in agriculture and these FFA kids will be the ones to fill them. Any advantage we can give them to prepare them for that will be really beneficial.”
About 120 students a year go through the ag education program in Nyssa, a small community in Eastern Oregon that is heavily dependent on farming activities.
Skeen, a member of the Nyssa ag education program’s advisory board, said one of the main goals of the project is to keep local kids interested in and involved with agriculture.
“It’s important to get these local kids familiar with this type of research and technology and get them excited about a possible career in agriculture,” he said. “It’s a big deal and I think it’s going to go a long way.”