Board explores microgreen project

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Discussion regarding the possibility of a commercial indoor farm that would produce microgreens and would be potentially located at Cumberland County Public Schools (CUCPS) took place among Cumberland supervisors during the board of supervisors’ monthly meeting Feb. 13.

Cumberland County is one of four localities that could potentially receive a grant from Virginia’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) toward this effort. The total grant is allocated as $35,000, but the grant would be split between the four localities in amounts of $8,750. Each locality would match the $8,750.

AFID’s planning grant program, according to the board meeting packet, “is designed to encourage localities to think strategically about how they can better support and integrate agriculture and forestry-based industries into their overall economic development and job-creation efforts.”

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The nonprofit called Creating Opportunities through Partnership and Education (COPE) International, is assisting Cumberland, the City of Lynchburg, Spotsylvania County and the City of Waynesboro with indoor microgreen farming projects.

In a memo from COPE, the organization cited that it will assist the county through various phases of the project and look at ways to expand the project to area nonprofits and organizations.

“We have been discussing a comprehensive program in subsequent phases in which some produce would go to the school cafeteria and FeedMore,” the memo cited. “Discussions are underway with (Southside Virginia Community College) SVCC for dual enrollment for this program. A commercial farm would be spooled up in the community center and perhaps another one in an unused county building. These farms would primarily sell produce in Richmond where there is high demand for microgreens to sustain the operation.”

Microgreens are young vegetable greens that can be sold to restaurants or other vendors.

Cumberland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin reported that she, with Dakota Daves, agriculture teacher, Dr. Chip Jones, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, and William Brandt, food service coordinator, visited a microgreen training center in Lynchburg.

“Our plan is to add a microgreen training center in our horticulture class next year,” Griffin said.

She noted the grant would pay for grow tables, or platforms used to grow the microgreens. “We’re working on a budget for the compost and the seeds … and I think Mr. (Bill) Osl is going to maybe help us with some Farm Bureau support for that.”

She said the first portion of the plan would be for students to grow the microgreens in the horticulture class.

The microgreens will grow within a week, Griffin said.

“You can harvest them. You can sell them, and then a whole other harvest (will grow) next week,” Griffin said.

She said a long-term plan would be for an instructor with an area community college to come and teach adults how to grow their own microgreens.

“It can be any citizen or a veteran,” Griffin said.

County Administrator and County Attorney Vivian Seay Giles noted during the meeting that COPE would need the county’s support in addition to the school division’s.

“The group COPE International is working through the schools, but they do need county support,” Giles said.

She suggested an amendment to a letter of interest written by the county that was included in the board packet. The amendment would clarify that the combination of cash and use of county facilities that make up the match of $8,750 came from outside sources rather than from the county.

Giles said Spotsylvania County, the host county, would be in charge of the grant distribution.

District One Supervisor William “Bill” Osl noted that the county’s Farm Bureau would be involved with the project.

“I’ve talked to Dr. Dixie Dalton, who is the dean down at SVCC, about providing a staff that would also be open to potentially (teaching) in the evenings for adult class opportunities as well,” Osl said, “and if you want I can share with you a draft that will come from Cumberland Farm Bureau supporting the project that’s going to Dr. Dalton, Dr. Griffin and to you as well,” Osl said, addressing the board of supervisors.

Parker Wheeler made a motion for the county to support the project and to amend the letter of interest. The motion passed.