New collaboration between Blue Ridge Community and Technical College programs a breath of fresh air

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — The agribusiness and culinary programs at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College found a new way to collaborate this year. Chef John Lane of the culinary program stepped in to help when the on-campus greenhouse was left unattended after classes moved online.

Tiffany Hine, the program coordinator of the agribusiness program, said, “The one thing that kind of got put aside was, well, what are we gonna do with the greenhouse? I can’t have that many students in here at any given time.”

Lane had previously received a degree in horticulture, and this experience allowed him to get back into gardening after almost 20 years away from it.

“It’s nice to have the beds, the space available,” Lane said.

The agribusiness program had previously given any leftover crops from the greenhouse to the culinary program, but Lane started planting more greens as well as a larger variety.

“He took a lot of the cucumbers and made pickles, he took the beets and pickled them and has really been able to take a lot of those crops coming out of there and use them in our culinary department to help offset what they were having to purchase,” said Hine.

Hine said they plan on maintaining this variety and allowing Lane to continue using parts of the greenhouse. This will allow the culinary department to have more fresh goods throughout the year.

“Chef John, I’m telling you, he can have as many beds and as many tables in that greenhouse that he wants at any time to continue growing,” Hine said.

“With the pandemic going on, herbs and fresh produce, in general, are very difficult to get. The supply chain has been interrupted so much that anything we get is usually at the end of its shelf life,” Lane said.

The agricultural program is looking forward to continuing this collaboration and learning from Lane in the future.

“They’re going to be able to have that opportunity and experience to work with Chef John and be able to find out, well, what crops grow well in a greenhouse? What doesn’t grow so well?” said Hine.

Lane is also looking forward to being able to continue reconnecting with his roots and rediscovering his green thumb.

“Get your hands in the dirt. It’s fun,” he said with a smile.

Goods made by the culinary program with these plants can be found at Blue Ridge’s campus, which is currently open to the public.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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