#41 - Let’s Get Serious About Greenhouses: Prologue
Updated: Oct 20
The Tool That Insures Our Communities Can Thrive
by KC Johnson
Prologue - this will be the first article in a series describing my attempt to bring greater awareness to the potentials of greenhouses.
Greenhouses For Small Food Production Businesses
Greenhouses may be the most important tool we have for surviving climate change and the disruption to our social and environmental fabric. No other tool meets as many needs as the variety of greenhouse options can provide. From the small backyard gardener growing space to larger units that can satisfy much larger food needs on up to the mega buildings that house many tiers of mechanized growing mediums, there is a rapidly evolving tidal wave of greenhouse adopters worldwide.
Distressed people around the world are already learning to depend on greenhouses to grow their food where climate conditions now prevent reliable outdoor agriculture. But greenhouses have the potential to become so much more than just food growing resources for families, and these other purposes are the focus of these articles.
Farmer’s Markets and Small Businesses
Any large or small community will benefit from locally grown food that can be produced year round meeting diverse tastes, unique product lines, great small business opportunities, improved with-in-the-community retention of money and resources, and strengthening a healthier sense of community.
These structures provide business opportunities for hundreds of people in every community that can support additional cottage-industry start-up businesses revitalizing the economic health of communities. A farmer’s market network will become an ideal venue for these small greenhouse-inspired businesses. Local farmer’s markets could support local needs in multiple locations convenient to community members much like so many other other countries already use in their local neighborhoods.
A vast range of subsequent products will emerge as greenhouses grow products for personal health uses, for creative arts uses, and for fun product lines of gifts not available through big box stores. These small producers become the backbone to re-vitalizing our main streets and providing the early business training for future entrepreneurs every community needs to remain vital.
But greenhouses can become life-changing options for at-risk people who have been left behind, for struggling neighborhood areas trying to move beyond food deserts and economic stress, and for mom and pop businesses returning to our main streets as the public buys locally grown foods and hand-made products and once again begin showing up on local community store shelves.
As new photo-conductive materials and energy-producing mechanisms become efficient energy sources, and as creative, more economical design approaches become better known, the demand by entrepreneurs for these structures will gain rapid adoption. These new greenhouse designs will allow growing a diverse array of quality foods at prices competitive with or cheaper than the poorer quality, seasonal, distantly grown foods that are now generally available to consumers.
Other Uses For Greenhouses:
Support Services Industry
Building and maintaining greenhouses will require small businesses to provide the equipment and supplies for the entrepreneur start-up businesses. Considering that a community of even a few thousand citizens could support dozens of greenhouses growing produce, aquatic-grown food, and even high-protein insects converted into food-grade products. Educating the growers will require technically trained teachers, researchers, and testing services to insure high food quality, a training that schools can make available through a curriculum specifically designed to support these needs.
Even leasing businesses will develop where modular structures with specifically designed equipment can speed up the entrepreneur becoming an operating business. A new more responsive lending structure can be developed, perhaps supported by local legislation, that makes it easier to fund start up operations. Keeping the business dollars within the community is an essential element for maintaining the financial health of every community so it is important to avoid large, impersonal, non-local banks and businesses for the investment into developing these small businesses.
Housing People In A Crisis
Greenhouses can be designed to address the needs of any community for rapid installation structures for unhoused people as a result of climatic events, economic stress, and homelessness in general. No one should have to live outdoors when temporary shelters are so readily available and so relatively inexpensive. Tiny homes are fine for individuals who don’t want to live directly with anyone else, but for families and small compatible groups, greenhouses can be viable options. Insulating structures is possible today at minimal cost compared to more permanent structures, and they can be removable with relative ease.
With the increasing numbers and severity of natural disasters happening worldwide, these greenhouse structures can be erected quickly, economically, and humanely as people struggle with temporary housing options. These natural disasters are often unpredictable calamities large and small communities must face and the lack of sufficient structures creates unimaginable hardships on the affected citizens. In a couple of days’ time temporary structures can be erected to house hundreds of people while they assess their options.
Every place on our planet now has degraded lands that are cascading into ecological disasters, and greenhouses can become a vital tool for re-vitalizing the indigenous flora and fauna that has been rapidly disappearing from our landscapes. Greenhouses can become the testing labs for raising indigenous species within each community and also be the ideal educational tool for young people, activists, and everyday people wanting to take direct, purposeful action to make tangible differences in their communities.
Taking on these challenges will require training, coordination with local and state regulations, and agreements with governing authorities for the funding. Plus, it will require developing an educated base of volunteers to support the removal of invasive species plants, conduct research into areas needing restoration, and assisting with the requirements for raising the selected species.
This becomes an ideal tool for educating the public, especially the youth, about where they can make a difference in their community. Many schools for any age can maintain a greenhouse on their property that then becomes an ideal live-lab learning opportunity.
As we have become less connected to the land, to growing our own foods, and engaging with wildlife in supportive ways, we become able to disrespect the land, just as we have grown to disrespect ourselves. It is no coincidence that we are suffering from extreme mental health issues and destroying our environment, these attitudes are intimately connected.
These approaches to flora and fauna restorations are a form of crowd sourcing the massive dramatic efforts needed to reverse the degradations our environments world-wide are faced with. In order to prepare the citizens to take intelligent action for the needed changes they need to have hands-on opportunities to educate themselves. Especially for young people and students, having access to restoration projects throughout their communities becomes the ideal learning medium for the curious minds. And these young minds will become the driving force for a restoration future.
We Are Running Out Of Options
Sitting on our hands is no longer an option, and unless we stop ignoring the problems and joining with the “woe is me” crowd, we will squander an ideal opportunity to resurrect vital aspects we need for our survival. Greenhouses provide an easy, relatively low-cost way to begin actively making community changes. As these ideas catch on, hopefully there will be a groundswell of ideas and projects springing up addressing individual community needs and opportunities.
These are ground-swell approaches to addressing our communities’ greatest needs. Government-driven and corporate-driven solutions won’t work early on because of their cumbersome decision-making processes and their profit motives. In fact, that is a part of the reason we are in the dire ecological state that we find ourselves now. We have relied on big business and governments to fix things. Their interests and our individual community interests are not the same. These large organizational approaches can play a role in helping us meet our needs, just not a leading role. That has to come from us, from the demands we have for supporting the land use, access to capital, public safety regulations, and by promoting the need for changes to happen in our immediate communities.
Imagine The Possibilities
Envision an ideal scenario with scores of small greenhouse operations throughout the community that are providing a wide variety of foods, that are raising vital missing flora and fauna species, that support unique spin-off businesses, that partially alleviates the at-risk people’s need for a place to sleep more safely and to work in meaningful employment, that teaches the youth about restoring the damaged ecosystems, and that sustains small farmer’s markets throughout the community knitting people together again. It needs to happen and can happen once we join the chorus for real change. - kc