Camille Jones sees a change in people — whether they’re students or adults — when they come into the community greenhouse.
“There’s some tranquility and connectivity being able to put your hands in the dirt,” she said. “There’s some sort of genetic fulfillment.”
Jones, 27, started farming when she was 19 and traveled the world as part of the exchange program World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. She started working at Carson City’s Greenhouse Project in March, and when site manager Ray Saliga left two months ago to take at job at the University of Nevada, Reno, Jones was hired for the job.
“When I found this position, I jumped on it,” she said. “I find it so rewarding to get children and adults excited about this.”
A city girl, Jones didn’t give much thought to food sources growing up. However, a trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras got her thinking.
“I saw how people threw their trash everywhere,” she recalled.
That trip was shortly followed by a visit to her brother in Colorado, where she “just got addicted to nature.”
“I decided the best thing I could do to conserve natural resources was to become a farmer,” she said. “I think growing food is the solution to all of society’s ills.”
The Community Greenhouse opened in 2010 as a nonprofit corporation aimed at serving as a year-round source of locally grown produce and flowers for Carson City. It is housed on the Carson High School campus and was approved last week by the Carson City School Board for another three-year lease.
Supervisor Karen Abowd, who spearheaded the project as a member of the Carson City Cultural Commission, told the board the project has reached all of its initial goals and is now looking at ways to ensure sustainability.
The Greenhouse Project serves the community, supplying fresh fruits and vegetables for food pantries at Friends In Service Helping, the Salvation Army and the Ron Wood Family Resource Center. Flowers grown there are used to make the hanging baskets that decorated the downtown corridor.
It also serves as a hands-on laboratory for high school and other students.
“A lot of those high school walls really break down when they come in here,” Jones said. “They step forward and interact with one another. They’re inquisitive.”
Ten percent of the produce is used in school’s culinary arts program. Students in the FFA program also use the greenhouse, supplementing instruction in plant science, natural resources, animal husbandry and floriculture classes. Seven students are working on senior projects involving the greenhouse.
Special-education students volunteer in the greenhouse daily, performing tasks such as creating earthworm farms, planting, pruning and harvesting.
“They’re really quite skilled,” Jones said.
And, she said, the work helps build their self-esteem.
“They’re able to experience successes they can’t in the classroom,” she said. “When you come out here, you can’t really mess up. You just stick a plant in the dirt.”
Moving forward, Jones said, she would like the see the community even more involved in the greenhouse, with plans to host workshops for children and adults, and to expand to grow a small orchard. She also would like to recruit artists to paint the raised beds outside.
“I think it would be beautiful to have people donate their skills,” she said. “Even when we have snow, it would still look good.”
Abowd said she expects the greenhouse will be a model for more to come.
“There aren’t really any other programs quite like this one,” she said. “All eyes are on it. They’re watching what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
Jones continues to draw on her experience, in particular a year spent organic farming in Ecuador, and focuses on learning new techniques and skills to share her philosophies.
“I like to think of myself as an ecological farmer,” she said. “I like to think about the frogs and the bees and the butterflies. When I’m farming, I’m creating habitats for animals as well as food for humans.”