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The original greenhouse, which supplied annual plant sales, collapsed during this year's heavy snowfall.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: SAUVIE ISLAND SCHOOL - Mother nature was just too much for the greenhouse at Sauvie Island SchoolThis past winter, heavy snowfall destroyed the greenhouse at Sauvie Island School.

Thanks to a $3,000 rural community grant from Northwest Farm Credit Services, the greenhouse, which supplies starts for the school's annual plant sale in March, will be rebuilt.

According to a news release, Northwest Farm Credit Services has awarded 1,522 grants totaling more than $2.92 million. The rural community grant program provides funds to nonprofit organizations for projects that improve a rural community's infrastructure and viability.

Sauvie Island School maintenance director Larry Olson said the destroyed greenhouse contained pipe and had a plastic covering.

"I went out that morning and knocked all the snow off," Olson said. "It turns out it snowed all weekend, and no one was here to knock the snow off. It just got heavy enough that it just caved in."

The task was then to search for a new greenhouse.

"We started looking at greenhouses, and we found that the greenhouses were rather expensive, especially if you mentioned that you were a school," Olson said, noting that the cost would run about $9,200 — a formidable outlay for a small public charter school like Sauvie Island School, which is affiliated with the Scappoose School District.

Olson recalled talking with a farmer on the island when the idea of a grant came up.

"His wife told me about the farm grant," Olson said. "I applied for it. They wrote the farm people a very nice letter of recommendation talking about our school, what we do."

Having received the grant, Olson continued, "It was enough to buy the greenhouse, so we have it coming in the middle of this month and, hopefully, we'll get it put up by the time school starts."

The new greenhouse will be metal-framed, which will make it much sturdier than the original plastic-covered "hoop house."

"It will take a certain snow load," Olson said.

The greenhouse also supplies starts for the school's plants to fill school-raised beds.

The new greenhouse will help students learn about plants.

"They will utilize the greenhouse to grow their starts, to get them big enough to put into potted plants," he said. "Hopefully, we can even have some beds in there where they can put the vegetables right in there and keep them growing all winter long. That's their plan, to be able to try and grow vegetables all winter long."

Some of the vegetables can even be used for school lunches. As an example, sprouts can go into a salad.

Speaking of the grant, Olson said, "I think it's fantastic. My job here is to make sure the place is clean and safe — I just take it a step further. Whatever I can do for these kids, I will do it. Whatever makes it easier for them, that's what I'm all about. Kids first."

Northwest Farm Credit Services is a $14 billion financial cooperative that offers financing and related services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, commercial fishing operations, timber producers, rural homeowners and crop insurance customers in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.


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