3:49 am CDT, Sunday, April 26, 2020
Photo: Rachel Ravina | The Reporter (AP)
Teaching children about produce and healthy eating is something Howard Brosius said he loves — and what he loves even more is taking it on the road.
“Seeing the little faces, and when I go into a classroom you can barely hear yourself think with, ‘Mr. Howard, Mr. Howard, Mr. Howard,’” he said.
Brosius pursues his passion on wheels with a mobile greenhouse built to grow plants and double as a small classroom.
The nonprofit launched in 2010, according to Brosius, but his love of fruits and vegetables began much earlier.
He grew up during World War II on a working farm with dairy, cattle, chickens, pigs, steer, vegetables and mushrooms.
“He (Brosius’ father) was one of the first mushroom growers in the country,” he said.
Brosius went on to receive a degree in agriculture.
When he returned to his family’s farm, he found love and married his wife, DJ.
Brosius said that DJ was a kindergarten teacher, but added that she was instrumental in getting his operation off the ground.
“She helps me with the program designs, and the recipes, and comes to some of the classes,” he said.
After starting the nonprofit, Brosius would go to various daycare centers and schools. He would bring 4 foot by 8 foot heated raised beds for the planted herbs and vegetables, but it was difficult for the instructors to water and maintain the mini gardens.
“I came up with this idea: why don’t I just take it with me?” he said.
With that, his dream to build a mobile greenhouse was born.
With the help of his son-in-law, Pete Maruca, a builder, Brosius used a flatbed tandem trailer, framed wood trusses that took 50 cans of spray paint, double walled polycarbonate panels, and string lights to create the greenhouse. The entire building process took about six months.
He uses heaters and has a thermostat inside the facility so that it won’t get colder than 40 degrees. The space is also complete with picnic tables built specifically for 4-year-olds to learn about and taste vegetables. Plans for improvements including installing an air conditioner and building a shelf to include a microwave and burner for cooking.
Brosius also faced another obstacle in his journey: where to plant his herbs and vegetables? Brosius said he starts plantings with seeds in supermarket baskets at his home and then takes them to the farm to be germinated.
When asked what types of species he typically plants, Brosius said greens including flowers, carrots and radishes.
Brosius said the “mobile greenhouse is a game changer,” as he can inspire more children with his lessons of healthy eating habits.
Brosius said that seeing their smiling faces is priceless.
“That’s the thing that gets you up in the morning,” he said.