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UWS Restaurateur Helps Donate $10K Greenhouse to High School Garden

By Emily Frost | June 2, 2015 1:21pm
 The Dwight School donated its greenhouse to the Urban Assembly for Green Careers. 
UWS School Gets $10K Greenhouse
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Those strolling by the community garden on Amsterdam Avenue at West 84th Street may have spied collard greens, chard and lettuce growing alongside other plants and vegetables — as well as a brand-new greenhouse. 

The 128-square-foot polyvinyl plastic structure, worth an estimated $10,000, was donated last month by the Dwight School to the Urban Assembly for Green Careers (UAGC), the public high school that maintains and uses the garden.

Jacob Hadjigeorgis, the owner of nearby restaurant Jacob's Pickles, connected the two schools and facilitated the gift. Hadjigeorgis, a Dwight alum, has supported the garden and the UAGC since he opened his neighboring eatery in 2011, he said. 

Through his foundation, Jacob's Pickles Digs NY, Hadjigeorgis has made donations to the garden and paid UAGC students to intern at his restaurant. 

He's familiar with the financial needs of the 360-student school — which opened in 2009 with the goal of preparing students for careers in urban farming and horticulture — as well as its limited means.

"It’s not easy to come by that kind of funding," he said of the greenhouse's cost.

Installing a greenhouse at UAGC has been a longtime dream for the school, but one that was considered highly unrealistic, said Michelle Andry, who works as a coordinator between the school and the community. 

She said a greenhouse "would have taken away a big chunk of funds for the program." 

Now, existing funding can go toward UAGC's laundry list of budget items — from gear for the student gardeners and soil and seeds to paying staff to oversee students who want to work there after school, she said. 

The greenhouse transforms the school curriculum because teachers can arrange new lesson plans around the mode of growing food.

"It’s really important for us to have students experience different growing mechanisms. We have hydroponic, soil... adding the greenhouse will help them experience how to grow things like they would at a nursery," Andry said. 

The structure also allows harvesting and planting to become a year-long activity, she said. For example, the Dwight School previously used the greenhouse, which it purchased in 2010, for growing spinach in the winter, she added. 

Walking by the UAGC's garden every day, Hadjigeorgis has seen how much the students do to improve the lot through constant repairs. Each semester it looks better, he said.

"Where the greenhouse is — the nook — is just a natural fit. It looks like it’s always been there and like it belongs here," Hadjigeorgis said. 

On Monday, Jacob's Pickles hosted a farm-to-table fundraising dinner for the school that he hopes to make a recurring event.