By Deb Courson Smith

Sixty thousand dollars is headed to four locations in Montana to build hoop-style greenhouses – greenhouses that will provide education about agriculture, as well as local fresh fruits and vegetables. The money comes from the Montana Farmers Union (MFU). It is the third time the group has awarded grants for greenhouses.

MFU President Alan Merrill says the hoop houses are sited at community gardens, youth agriculture programs and schools. At one school, students learn all about pizza while raising produce, he says.

“And they put in a tomato plant, anything that goes on the pizza other than the meat – they grow it, they see how it’s grown, and they’re really happy that they knew how to grow what went on pizza.”

According to Merrill, the hoop houses are large, and more produce is usually grown than can be used by those who received the project grant – even when used as part of school lunch programs. So, the benefits are spread throughout communities.

“The Rescue Mission in Great Falls will take some on, Meals on Wheels will take some; some of the other organizations that give meals out will take it all.”

New hoop houses will be going up at the Salvation Army in Billings, Cascade Public School, the Lame Deer Morning Stars’ Future Farmers of America community garden, and the Jordan Public School System. Details about the hoop house program and grants are at http://ht.ly/4J8u0.