News & Events

UMPI launches greenhouse fundraising campaign, announces new Ag Sciences and Agribusiness degree

In its efforts to expand its Agricultural offerings and meet the needs of the region’s agricultural industry, the University of Maine at Presque Isle has launched a fundraising campaign for the construction of a $495,000, state-of-the-art teaching and research greenhouse on campus and has announced plans for the establishment of a stand-alone Bachelor’s degree program in Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness that will launch in Fall 2018.

Faculty and students in UMPI’s Agricultural Sciences as well as its Environmental Science and Sustainability programs will use the greenhouse to support sustainable agricultural endeavors and prepare skilled workers for one of Aroostook County’s primary economic drivers. For example, the new Agricultural Sciences program will be able to focus on issues and problems facing local farmers by combining current and existing research with exceptional local expertise.

The primary focus of the greenhouse project right now is fundraising, as $240,000 is needed to complete the anticipated 2,400-square-foot, four season greenhouse, which will include two research labs, a teaching classroom and a faculty office. The greenhouse’s state-of-the-art design features will maximize energy and operational efficiency. To date, UMPI has raised $255,000 toward the overall project cost and encourages gifts of all sizes to help begin the next phase in supporting economic development within the agricultural sector.

“We are incredibly pleased to announce that Don and Linda Zillman, past UMPI President and First Lady, have donated the lead naming gift toward our greenhouse project,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “This is a wonderful gift that not only allows us to provide a high quality, hands-on learning laboratory but also serves as an important cornerstone to our new Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness degree program.”

After opening its doors to campus, The Zillman Family Greenhouse will be used for various educational and research activities, including courses on plant biology, soil science, plant and crop science, and integrated pest management. Faculty will also host professional development workshops for training in techniques such as seedling production and grafting, and collaborate with community and state partners such as the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Future Farmers of America, Maine Farmland Trust, the Maine Potato Board, McCain Foods, and the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Association.

Some key features of the greenhouse will include LED lighting, watering and ventilation systems, and an advanced climate control system and sensor capacity. The technology will help support UMPI’s current research efforts such as disease management, soil fertility, and economic opportunities for Maine growers and agricultural producers.

The greenhouse will serve as one of the major components—along with 60 acres of tillable land and laboratory research facilities—of UMPI’s new Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness program. According to its mission, the program will serve students and working professionals by educating them in current agricultural practices and supports the development and adoption of research-based approaches to improve agricultural practices, in collaboration with regional agribusinesses and institutions. Key features of the program will include internships and the extensive involvement of local professionals in the education of Ag students.

“Since we launched our Sustainable Agriculture program three years ago, we’ve seen growth in student interest and research projects that support potato and other local sectors,” Dr. Jason Johnston, Dean of UMPI’s College of Arts and Science, said. “As we launch a full program this fall, we are focusing on the agricultural science, business, and technology needs of modern agriculture. By also engaging local farmers and agribusiness professionals, we are preparing students through real, regional examples and boots-in-the-soil engagement in the practice of agriculture.”

UMPI’s location in the heart of the premier agricultural region of Maine and its proximity to the Aroostook Research Farm and Cooperative Extension make it ideally situated to support education and research to enhance existing commercial agriculture and to develop new agricultural opportunities.

While the Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness Program will launch this Fall, construction for the greenhouse will begin as soon as funds are raised. Debbie Roark, UMPI’s Executive Director for University Advancement, encourages the public to make contributions toward the construction efforts. Those who make contributions of $1,000 or more will be included on a dedication plaque for the greenhouse.

“We are excited to launch the public phase of our greenhouse construction project and so appreciative to the Zillmans for their generosity,” Debbie Roark, Executive Director of University Advancement, said. “Giving is not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference. The Zillman Family Greenhouse will serve our entire Aroostook County community, from college students and youth through seniors, as well as business and industry alike.”

Anyone who wishes to donate to the greenhouse fundraising efforts or would like more information about the project should contact Dr. Roark at (207) 768-9755 or deborah.roark@maine.edu or Dr. Johnston at (207) 768-9652 or jason.johnston@maine.edu.