BOAZ, Ala. – Snead State Community College’s Horticulture program was recently presented a donation of $10,000 from the City of Boaz.
Dr. Thomas Warren, an instructor of Horticulture and Biology, plans to use the donation to help fund a new greenhouse.
“This is the third year in a row the city has given us $10,000,” he said. “In return we grow flowers for them at our current greenhouse to put out downtown, at city hall and at Courtyard on Main. This has become a semester-long project for my students in Introduction to Horticulture.
“We start growing those plants this time of year (late winter, early spring) and then, at the end of the semester students go out and plant the flowers for the city as part of final exam for a hands-on component.”
At the greenhouse, students grow plants from seeds, plugs and cuttings. They are also taught the practice of grafting.
“I’m very appreciative of Mayor David Dyar and Councilman Johnny Willis,” Warren said. “They’re kind of the two that have spearheaded this for the city over the last few years … The city is investing in our students, and the city is getting a return on that investment.”
With the $10,000, Warren said he intends to leverage the funds in order to build a second greenhouse.
Thanks to a grant from the Alabama Mountain Rivers and Valleys Council, the college’s current greenhouse was constructed and opened in 2019.
“Our plan is to write another grant to the council for a second greenhouse, requesting about $20,000,” Warren said, “but we’re going to match $20,000 for a total of $40,000 for the greenhouse.
“The city has invested in us over the last few years, and we’ve put that money into a foundation account. Some of that money has gone toward supplies for the greenhouse, but we’ve been able to save a chunk of that money each year, so now we can try to leverage that money to get the match.”
The goal for the Horticulture program is to have a shade greenhouse and a full-sun greenhouse, which would allow students to expand and grow different crops.
“It would better position us to better serve the city,” Warren said. “We could expand, giving us more space and allowing us to grow more species we’re not able to grow now.”
Warren said the Horticulture program was growing; there are currently 20 students enrolled in classes with more to come.
Hired on in 2014, Warren said job opportunities in the green industry were at an all-time high.
“There is a tradition of agriculture at Snead State,” he said. “Somewhere in the early 2000s we kind of fell away, and we’re trying to resurrect that. Because there is a need for skilled labor in the green industry … If any student in my class right now wanted a full-time job with benefits – a 401K, vacation, the whole package – I could get it to them right now. An internship? I could get it to them. Anywhere. I mean, if they wanted to Oregon or Florida for a summer internship, there are companies out there that will pay $15 to $20 per hour, they’d pay for an apartment for summer, and they can work all the OT they want. It’s really a great opportunity for kids that want a job where they’re not behind a desk all of the time.”
Horticulture classes at Snead State are transferable to the College of Agriculture at Auburn University.
“We’re grateful for our continued partnership with the City of Boaz,” said Snead State President Dr. Joe Whitmore. “Their support, led by Mayor Dyar, has greatly impacted and helped improve the learning experience of students enrolled in Horticulture.”
Learn more about the Horticulture program at www.snead.edu.