Growing Green(s) at the PHJC Ministry Center

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lettuce growing

There’s a new enterprise sprouting at the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Ministry Center. The goal of the initiative is to provide fresh vegetables to the Ministry Center's Kitchens year-round. The assortment will focus on those vegetables that are eaten raw or lightly cooked, to maximize the benefits of fresh taste, aroma, texture and nutrition.

Two new polyhouses (greenhouses covered with plastic film instead of glass) are being constructed. They are located next to Earthworks, on the south side of Lake Gilbraith.

lettuce_spinach_growing

The polyhouses are key to year-round production in Northern Indiana. Both are equipped with heating to provide temperatures required for plant growth. To keep costs and fossil fuel consumption relatively low, the wintertime assortment will be limited to cool-season vegetables such as spinach, lettuces and other leafy greens, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, onions, leeks, radishes and the many cold crops: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, collards, mustard greens, turnips and watercress.

The polyhouses also allow for what is known as season extension. Under the protection of the polyhouse, warm-season crops can be planted as early as mid-April, or a month earlier than those grown in fields. The same protection makes it possible to continue growing and harvesting warm-season crops for several additional weeks in the autumn.

In addition to the polyhouses, a headhouse is being built. A headhouse is the building connected or adjacent to a greenhouse where everything is done except the actual growing of plants, such as sowing seeds in flats, potting up seedlings, cleaning the harvested produce as well as pots and tools, and maintaining and repairing equipment. It also houses office and storage space.

growing greens at phjc

During the traditional growing season, vegetables will fill plots between and around the new structures.

Why is the PHJC Ministry Center growing its own vegetables? Here’s a summary of the answer to that very important question.

Truly fresh foods, particularly vegetables and fruit, are more tantalizing, tasty and nutritious, thus encouraging residents, students, visitors and employees to make healthy foods a larger proportion of their diet.

Food safety and security is another set of issues that this project addresses. In short, people need reliable, safe supplies of good food, something too easily taken for granted. And it can be reassuring to actually know the person who is growing the food that nourishes your body.

This initiative is a celebration of place, of connection to the land, the past and the future, and of human endeavor and aspiration. Every plant that is planted, every seed that is sown, is both a prayer and a promise. By growing its own food in an environmentally responsible way, the Ministry Center is putting its commitment to sustainability and stewardship in action. Its produce will be grown in a manner that respects and protects consumers and the air, water, soil and biological diversity that surrounds and sustains them.

As is so very important in all the PHJC ministries, knowledge and experiences will be shared. From talks and tours, to taste-tests and recipe contests, there will be plenty of opportunities to help others learn more about food and how to grow their own.

The new horticulturist at the PHJC Ministry Center is Wayne Becker. If you have any questions or comments, want to visit or perhaps volunteer, please contact him at (574) 780-4830 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..