UMPI to break ground on greenhouse

5 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The University of Maine Presque Isle will be starting construction this spring on a new research greenhouse for its agriculture program, with the building work being done by Presque Isle-based contractor PNM Construction.

At a breakfast meeting Wednesday, UMPI leaders outlined the year-old agricultural science and agribusiness bachelor’s of science program and the plans for a new research greenhouse to be built adjacent to Gentile Hall.

The B.S. program is the first new bachelor’s program launched at UMPI in more than 20 years, and the new greenhouse will be the campus’ first new building since the construction of Gentile Hall in 2006.

The 2,400 square foot greenhouse will cost $935,000, and be named after Don and Linda Zillman. Don Zillman was a former president of UMPI and he and Linda donated $100,000 to the project.

Deborah Roark, UMPI’s executive director of university advancement, said that PNM Construction of Presque Isle will be the project’s general contractor, and Turner-based Dirigo Architectural Engineering designed it.

“We’re thrilled it’s a local company,” Roark said.

“It’s not just a traditional greenhouse,” she added.

Most of the funding will come from grants and donations by area businesses, individuals and alumni.

The climate-controlled, multi-sectioned greenhouse will be completed by autumn and will be dedicated during the university’s homecoming weekend in the last weekend of September, Roark said.

Jason Johnston, dean of UMPI’s College of Arts and Sciences, said the agriculture program is aimed at serving northern Maine’s farming industry and positioning graduates to work in a diverse range of jobs.

“We want to be at the cutting edge of agricultural education,” Johnston said.

“There’s a lot of science” in the program, including plant biology, precision agriculture, technology and safety, as well as business courses, marketing, and management.

“All of these courses will have hands-on learning experiences,” Johnston said. “Then there will be a capstone learning experience where a student will have to perhaps put together a business plan, do a research project, do something where they pull all this together or maybe an internship.

UMPI is in the midst of hiring a new faculty member to fill the Robert Vinton Akeley Chair of Agricultural Science and Agribusiness, named after the late Presque Isle-born potato breeder.

The position was created with the donation of $1 million from Akeley’s daughter, Mary Akeley Smith. The largest ever gift to UMPI, the donation set up an endowment to support the faculty position, as well as faculty and student research.