Ivy Tech initiative would put greenhouse on landfill-owned property

Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus wants to build a greenhouse on the northwest side of Columbus near the county landfill to teach students about alternative farming.

The Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District is partnering with Ivy Tech on the project.

The greenhouse will be used for college and high school students to study hydroponics, aquaponics and to grow greenhouse crops. It will be no bigger than 40 feet by 120 feet.

A nearby pond to the northeast of the proposed greenhouse location could be used to raise fish and shrimp in the warmer months.

Ivy Tech received a conditional use permit and a variance from the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals on Jan. 27 to allow the structure to be built next to the Bartholomew County Landfill, using the landfill’s methane gas emissions as energy for the greenhouse.

The greenhouse is proposed for a property off of 25th Street about 2,500 feet east of County Road 500E in Clay Township.

The land is owned by the Bartholomew County Solid Waste District and would be leased by Ivy Tech for the greenhouse, said Matt John, agriculture program chair with Ivy Tech.

John said the idea for a greenhouse stemmed from a Cummins Inc. feasibility study of the landfill that found its gas emissions could be used for other purposes, including fueling an electric generator or produc-ing heat.

The Cummins report estimated the cost of pumping the gas out of the landfill to the west of the property where the proposed greenhouse would be built would cost about $45,000.

John said that study made it seem possible and feasible to move forward with the greenhouse.

“There’s been an increasing interest in offseason vegetable production. Indiana is pretty far behind the rest of the country in that concept,” he said. “This could become a valuable teaching tool.”

Classes of about 20 Ivy Tech students would be using the greenhouse, John said.

He’s also been in contact with several Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. teachers who are interested in bringing students to the greenhouse.

While John and Bartholomew County Solid Waste District manager Heather Siesel think the plan could take shape, several nearby residents said they had concerns.

George Hege, 10622 E. 25th St., said he liked the idea of a greenhouse but wasn’t sold on its proposed location which would be at the northwest end of his property.

Hege said he someday might want to build a house on the northwest side of his property and would not like to have to look at the greenhouse from his own backyard.

He also was worried that students who became familiar with the property would trespass there.

“I’m on board with them being able to do something there. I call it tainted ground. I think it’s a great idea, I just don’t think I want it right there,” he said.

Alice Brown, who lives north of the proposed site at 10433 E. County Road 200N, said she’s also worried about trespassing when the greenhouse and pond aren’t being used for educational purposes.

“There definitely is an issue with people wanting to use the pond for fishing,” she said.

“Some kids skipped school, came out on their four-wheelers and their pickup trucks.”

John said he plans to work with the concerned residents to make sure it doesn’t affect any of their properties.

He said Ivy Tech won’t be paying for the structure and that he plans to have an idea about the cost of the project in about a month.

Once he knows how much the project will cost, he will begin seeking grant money and donations to fund the greenhouse.

“I would love to see construction start by summer time,” he said.

About the project

Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus is planning to build a greenhouse on property owned by the Bartholomew County Solid Waste District.

The property is located on 25th Street, about 2,500 feet east of County Road 500E in Clay Township.

The cost of the project and start date for construction have not been determined yet.