Horticulture students at Ector County ISD will start the year with new greenhouses and a new location.

The program will be moving out to the Ag Farm at 7649 W. Dunn St. Two new greenhouses also are being on the site and they are expected to be completed in October, Christina Butler, horticulture/agriculture and mentor teacher, said.

One of two new greenhouses at the Ector County Independent School District Agricultural Farm is seen being built on Tuesday afternoon in West Odessa. The greenhouses are being built as part of the district’s horticulture program. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

For now, the plants will be at the Frost building, but the students will be at the farm, Butler said.

The new greenhouses were funded by Ector County ISD through Career and Technical Education funds, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education Carla Byrne said. The cost was “just shy” of $800,000.

The greenhouses were purchased and designed by Stuppy’s. JSA designed the configuration for where they were set up to go and everything surrounding them, Byrne said in a text message.

CTE generates weighed average daily attendance, so ECISD allowed CTE to utilize funding for that, which Byrne said was very generous.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she observed. “These greenhouses are about 20 years old and we have just struggled repeatedly over the years with them not working anymore, the cooling pads just falling apart; so many issues with them and we really have had such a wonderful team of maintenance employees who’ve helped us patch it over and over again just so that we could get through each of our seasons.”

Brown’s Permian Electric Company worker Rich Greg flips through blueprints at the site where two new greenhouses are being built at the ECISD’s Agricultural Farm Tuesday afternoon in West Odessa. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Byrne added that she’s gratified that the district values what the students do with the greenhouses and the learning that occurs there.

“We’re just so grateful and super blessed. We can’t wait to see just how much better the product is when we don’t have to struggle with the functionality of the greenhouses, and then of course leading to much more beautiful sales,” Byrne said.

Butler said she is excited about the new facilities and hopes the program will grow as a result. There are currently 20 students in horticulture and 150 to 200 all together with animal science, veterinary medicine and principles of agriculture students, she added.

Having modern greenhouses will also give students a chance to grow different plants and it will be climate controlled.

Workers from Brown’s Permian Electric Company work on installing an electrical box inside of of ECISD’s new greenhouses at the ECISD Agricultural Farm Tuesday afternoon in West Odessa. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

One downside is that the district won’t have its poinsettia sale this year because the greenhouses won’t be done in time, Butler said.

“We know the community depends on us to provide the poinsettia sale in the fall and the spring sale as well. We just really are disappointed to not be able to provide that this fall, but we do feel like it’s for the greater good going forward, so we’ll have to sacrifice this one sale, one poinsettia sale. We hope the community will not forget about us because of that and definitely come and see us in the spring for the spring sale and then next fall for just a beautiful poinsettia sale,” Byrne said.

“We really appreciate so much the community support in what we do with our students in horticulture, so we don’t want to let them down. We really appreciate everyone’s patience. I think they’re going to see when they come out for the spring sale just how beautiful the sale is; the plants and the greenhouses themselves. I almost can’t believe it when I see it. They’re so gorgeous,” she added.

Both Butler and Byrne are pleased that all the agriculture and horticulture people will be together.

“… There’s so much overlap in the learning outcomes between all of the horticulture classes and the animal science classes, but unfortunately there’s been this disconnect because our kids in animal science have always been at the farm and our kids in horticulture have always been at Frost Tech, so … each of those programs have not had the opportunities very often to work in tandem,” Byrne said. “We’re excited that the students will be able to experience the whole world of agriculture because horticulture should not be in a silo separate from animal science. It makes sense to have the greenhouses at the Ag Farm. There’s so much space at the Ag Farm where the students can work to grow vegetables and gardens and even crops. And of course, we had the animal science kids doing that to some degree in years past. We want the horticulture kids to really head that up, so that’s exciting, too.”

Byrne noted that the district offers a lot of wonderful things that are well-kept secrets.

“Ultimately, our goal is for kids to be in the right program of study that leads to the type of careers that they’re going to be happiest and most successful at,” Byrne said.

She added that she “couldn’t be more grateful” to Superintendent Scott Muri and the leadership team for approving the budget request.

“It’s refreshing to know that people support career tech because at the end of the day it supports students and the community in which we live. It’s a good thing to go to work each day knowing that the people that run this district care about what it is that you’re trying to do for kids and this really showed me that, and it showed our kids that, and it showed our faculty that. It’s a big celebration. It’s a huge win and we’re grateful,” Byrne said.