Garden grows with new greenhouse

Construction students assist community garden with new greenhouse

It was a long time in coming, but on Dec. 9 a group gathered at Delfino Park in White Plains to celebrate the completion of a new greenhouse. Students at the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services began construction on the greenhouse during the last school year and now the finished structure has been put in place.

Its arrival in its new home was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony that brought together officials from White Plains, the Center for Career Services and community garden enthusiasts and supporters.

“COVID did not stop us, but it did delay us,” Center for Career Services Principal Evangelo Michas joked about the time it took for students to complete the project. “It’s a pleasure, a great experience working with the White Plains Youth Bureau. We are always willing to help the community.”

“It’s a wonderful partnership,” Byron Smalls, MPA, with the White Plains Youth Bureau and founder of the gardening program said.

The project is the result of a special symbiotic relationship that has developed between the City of White Plains, specifically the Youth Bureau, and Career Services. The two groups have worked on other projects in the past, including the construction of a garden shed.

“It’s been a godsend to us, we are able to offer classes, store tools and allow for community use,” Mr. Smalls said of the garden shed. “It’s just wonderful. Then I got the idea to see if they could build us a greenhouse.”

The greenhouse was commissioned by the Youth Bureau for their “Growing White Plains” program. Four years ago during a storm the greenhouse they had been using was destroyed. Going forward the new structure will be used to begin seedlings that will be transplanted to two gardens used by the gardening program with sites at Bethel Baptist Church/ White Plains Youth Bureau Garden and The White Plains Youth Bureau Garden / Presbyterian Hospital Garden.

The gardening program began a dozen years ago and includes elementary and middle school students who begin the seedlings, care for them and eventually transplant them. During the summer, high school students help to maintain the gardens, caring for the plants and eventually harvesting what is grown. The garden is completely organic and all the produce is donated to city food banks.

When CTE Construction and Plumbing teacher Kurt Boysen took over the program the greenhouse was 75 percent completed. This school year Construction students worked to finish the roof, add in some electrical wiring, touched up the paint on the exterior and finished the trim.

Because of the environmentally friendly practices used in the gardens, Mr. Boysen said no VOX producing paint or chemicals were used on the shed.

“White Plains is a green city,” Frank William, Executive Director of the White Plains Youth Bureau said, due to the continuous efforts of Mayor Thomas Roach. He thanked Mr. Smalls for the work he did to get the “new, beautiful greenhouse.”

“This project will help on so many levels,” Mayor Roach said. “It’s for the kids, and it’s also a great experience working together. We want to thank BOCES for their commitment and carpentry. It’s cool to see.”

BOCES students had an opportunity to use the skills they have learned or pick up news skills, White Plains youth get to grow nourishing food for their community and enjoy the bounty with a soup meal at the end of hte growing season made from produce they grew, the mayor said.

“I love when everyone benefits from something and people develop relationships and want to work together,” Mayor Roach continued.

Having the greenhouse will enable students to get a head start on planting seeds and will enable them to grow more than 700 seedlings for transplant, Mr. Smalls said.