Details from Aaron Cook, BRCC Dean and SE-ARS member:
Hope you are safe and well. So we have been discussing the Vaseyi Chapter of the ASA and the Southeastern Chapter of the ARS contributing in some part to refurbishing the Greenhouse on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College. I know these are difficult decisions and wish there was more time to deliberate and discuss. Unfortunately, the Greenhouse is no longer operational at this point. I had hoped to start sticking cuttings for several projects in early June. I have already put in several hundred dollars of my own money to keep it going over the winter months. State money is not an option at this time, all positions and spending has been frozen by the system office. I need at least $30,000 to replace the systems and redo at least part of the glazing. Two roof panels blew off this week. I was hoping that the Vaseyi Chapter could contribute $5000 and the Southeastern could contribute $25,000.
I know it is a lot to ask, but believe we could easily make the money back if we sponsored a Fall meeting of the ARS and another ASA convention in the future. Having access to the greenhouse and the facilities of the college would easily help us offset some of the costs of hosting. If we can't come to a decision soon I will have to look for other Plant Society sponsors or start the paperwork to put the program on hiatus for the time being. This budget cycle ends June 30th and we start wrapping everything up June 15th.
How did the greenhouse get on such bad shape?
During the previous Presidents tenure, the Program was moved from Dept to Dept as she reorganized the colleges divisions. The last home for the Program was in Career and Technical Education under then Dean Chris English. Chris came up through the system as an Automotive person and those programs were his pet projects. He channeled most of his department’s money into those areas. When I took over, the Horticulture program did not have a yearly operating budget. Now it does. Unfortunately due to COVID 19, the State has frozen all hiring and purchases.
I do not work that way as a Dean and never have. I try to evenly spread state monies across all areas, and continuously look for other sources of funds, Grants, Foundation monies, etc.
Once repaired, will there be money in the state budget to keep it operating?
The short answer is YES. I have carefully analyzed the needs of each program under me and set up realistic operating budgets for each area. Once we get past this current Health crisis, for the foreseeable future the program will have approximately $10 – 12, 000 in operating funds each year. These are funds for Supplies and Equipment maintenance, not salaries.
Can you give us an outline of your program and how the greenhouse is used?
Our program is a standard Horticulture Technology AAS degree. As part of the core curriculum, students are required to take the following classes. Nursery or Greenhouse Operations, Plant Materials I and II, Greenhouse Production, and Plant Propagation. All of these courses require the use of a greenhouse. Besides our curriculum program, we also offer Plant Propagation as a Continuing Education class.
Are we fairly certain that there will be on campus classes this fall?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to address, as no one knows what could happen this Fall. All I can say is that we are open for business and are running face to face Horticulture classes this summer. I developed a set of Social Distancing, and cleaning guidelines that everyone has to adhere to and we started classes today. Most of them are held in traditional classrooms or outside. In some cases we are scheduling only 1 or 2 students in the facilities at a time and following strict safety and cleaning processes after each student.
I hope this addresses most of your concerns. Thank you for considering it and let me know if there is anything else I can do. I of course VOTE YES.
My Kindest Regards
I just wanted to keep you abreast of current developments. I have got the greenhouse operational and will start sticking cuttings next week. I have started replacing the systems and we are on track to finish the project. If the ARS-Southeastern Chapter comes in we will be within $8500 of having all of the money required to complete the project. I have also managed to get money to replace some of our older equipment. (New tractor) So the program should be in great shape going forward. Just so you know, it is not all about Horticulture, I also have successfully completed projects for Art ( New outdoor Kiln and Welding shop) Theatre ( New classroom and venue to hold plays) and Film & Video ( New state of the Art light boards, sound boards and editing equipment).
There should be an article coming out in the Azalean about Vaseyi's donation in the Fall edition.