Frost burg State University

Frostburg State University, in partnership with the Western Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Council, has launched Frostburg Grows: Grow It Local Greenhouse Project, an innovative program that is converting a reclaimed strip mine into a greenhouse complex designed to serve multiple purposes. This complex, operated completely off the grid, is teaching local growers to make better use of their land to increase the availability of local food, cultivating native tree seedlings for stream buffers and other restoration projects, and providing a living classroom for FSU students. This is just the beginning of its possibilities.

The location, which also once stored FEMA trailers, features two high-tunnel greenhouses producing abundant yields of foods such as tomatoes, peppers and raspberries, and a shade house for tree seedlings. Four more high-tunnel greenhouses are planned.

The project is powered entirely by renewable resources: the plants are watered largely by collected rainwater utilizing a solar-heated drip irrigation system, with pumps powered by solar cells. Old highway signs that were donated by the Maryland State Highway Administration have been recycled into planters and water storage tanks.

One of the earliest projects involved cultivating native tree seedlings for a variety of reforestation projects. Seeds, such as acorns from white oaks and seed pods from black walnut trees, were collected and planted by students and local volunteers, then cultivated in the shade house. Hundreds of seedlings were cultivated in the first year, a number expected to triple in the second year. Special care is taken to make sure the seedlings are adapted to the local climate.

Workshops are being offered so the community can learn how to build and operate tree nurseries and high tunnel greenhouses. In particular, Frostburg Grows is identifying different ways to grow local fruits and vegetables in a greenhouse environment, techniques which will be shared with area growers to extend their growing season and make more efficient use of their land.

The environmental, social and economic goals of Frostburg Grows are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce Potomac River basin flooding, reduce acid mine drainage, re-establish natural forested habitat on strip mined lands, create employment opportunities on site, create a training facility that will help create additional job opportunities, reduce food insecurity, provide local healthy food to the residents of Western Maryland, and serve as a model for Appalachia.