Green thumbs

Green zebra tomatoes, jalapenos, and squash are just a few of the vegetables sprouting in LC’s greenhouse, thanks to the Green Thumbs Club.

A corps of 10 to 15 students has resurrected the neglected greenhouse near Hobbs Hall and will soon be transplanting their young plants to a garden on Faculty Drive.

Kelley Deegan ’13, president of the Green Thumbs, will be tending the plants all summer as she does two campus internships, one working for physical plant as maintainer of beds throughout the campus, and the other doing orchid research with Dr. Nancy Cowden, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Priscilla Gannicott, professor of chemistry. Kelley received a $2,000 Undergraduate Summer Science Research Fellowship from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges to conduct the field research on orchids and insect behavior. 

Kelley’s own green thumb got started this year, as she took plant biology and introduction to environmental science classes. She switched from chemistry to environmental science when she found her new passion.

“I want to do something with plants, permaculture, and environmental science,” she said, noting the irony that she was never really interested in her mother’s garden or her family’s Italian farming roots until she got to college.

The greenhouse provided a good beginning. Thadd Williams ’12 built waist-high beds, which the club filled with new soil. They make compost from the cafeteria’s greens. They hope to start a blackberry patch on the steep hill outside the greenhouse. They hope to revamp a small pond in the greenhouse with a waterfall decked out in orchids and ferns and fill the pond with water lilies and goldfish.

Thadd, a biomedical science major, aspires to be a large animal veterinarian and work with small farmers to encourage sustainable agriculture. When he moved to Lynchburg two years ago, he started helping out at Lynchburg Grows, an urban farm that takes a hands-in-the-dirt approach to teaching others how sustainable food production promotes a healthy planet.

Thadd was happy to lend his skills to restoring LC’s greenhouse. “I want to be part of educating people about it,” he said. At 30, Thadd said he was attracted to LC because of its cadaver lab and “astounding science program.”

He hopes the greenhouse will become a club house for a variety of sustainable initiatives. “The greenhouse can be a tool to get other things done,” he said.