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Work Begins on Belmont Community-Funded Greenhouse - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Work Begins on Belmont Community-Funded Greenhouse

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UACC operations director Todd Niemeier reviews greenhouse plans. UACC operations director Todd Niemeier reviews greenhouse plans.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) -

Charlottesville's Belmont neighborhood is getting a new community greenhouse thanks to donations from people throughout the region. The goal is to use the greenhouse on Avon Street to bring the community together.

The Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC) used a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for the greenhouse. $10,000 later, they're using help from the community again, this time to start building.

"We believe that working together to grow and share healthy food helps cultivate healthy communities," said Todd Niemeier, the operations director for UACC.

Here's how it works: the UACC collaborates with people in neighborhoods that might not have access to fresh produce. They grow the food, harvest it, and distribute it free of charge to people who have helped out.

"It's a community building activity as well as food production activity," Niemeier said.

Since 2007 the UACC has been starting plants under grow lights in a garage then putting them in cold frames. This new project will make the process more efficient.

"So what we're tying to do now is build a greenhouse so that we can house more plants and it'll offer us some flexibility to do that the cold frames don't allow us to do," said Niemeier.

Once completed, the greenhouse will be 16 feet long by 10 feet wide, with a high ceiling for self-ventilation. There will also be automatic openers that respond to heat and expand to open the vents when needed.

"It will be a passive solar greenhouse with enough height difference we can get airflow in through the bottom and out through the top without using electricity so there are no fans, not any added heat," Niemeier said. "So it all relies on the air flow to both heat it and cool it."

The greenhouse will also have features to keep bugs out.

Niemeier hopes by building this greenhouse, they'll be planting the seeds of a more united city. "Probably the most important aspect of our work is the community empowerment and community togetherness that this promotes," he said. "What we really love about this work is that it brings people together across barriers- across race and economics They often divide us instead of bring us together and that's really what's great about this," he said.

"Building a greenhouse, that's part of facilitating the interaction part of this. By being able to grow the vegetables that we produce we're able to engage people in the process, and by engaging people in the process we start these conversations that wouldn't happen normally," added Niemeier. "It brings that sort of awareness of our neighbors to the fore and gets people helping one another and that's the key part of what we're dong, more than vegetables."

The UACC hopes to have the structure finished in the next few weeks and the entire greenhouse completed within two months.

That's just the first project that the $10,000 Kickstarter campaign will fund. Sometime after next month they hope to begin work on a cold storage unit, or walk-in cooler to store fresh produce. "We're excited to fulfill that commitment to all those people who backed us last fall," Niemeier said.

Click here for more information about the The Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville and how you can get involved.

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