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Community greenhouse looking for financial support

Could be up and running by 2010 if funding is found

Proponents of a giant community greenhouse are hoping to grow enough financial support to start construction next year.

Several major hurdles have already been cleared, said Dr. Stephen Milstein, who is on the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) Greenhouse Committee, and now major funding must be secured.

“We can’t raise this money alone,” he said.

“When people read this, if they want to become involved, if they believe they can help us raise the funds, if they have contacts, if they are a philanthropist, we would love to talk to them.”

The project needs $2.5 million to get out of the ground.

Organizers have already received a sizeable grant from the family of Maurice Young, who supported the development of Millennium Place.

The $20,000 will be used to produce the development application for the municipality, which has already agreed in principle that the two-acre greenhouse can be constructed beside the athletes’ village in the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.

“I am told there are no red lights, but we need to meet normal development requirements and I believe a lot of people are excited about this,” said Milstein.

He has also met with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games about selling the vegetables produced to suppliers for the athletes’ village.

So far it looks promising, though VANOC has some security concerns about keeping the greenhouse open at Games time, said Milstein.

Kwantlen College’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture is also interested in the project and has already supplied a letter of support.

Milstein is hopeful that companies will come forward and start to help out with the project. The next big piece to tackle is the energy component and the greenhouse committee is currently pouring over RMOW documents on thermal heat capture at the site.

“Maybe someone in geothermal would like to showcase their products,” he said.

Some local businesses have already helped out. Brian Brown of RB Brown Land Surveying took on the original assessment of the land pro bono.

“That is a great example,” said Milstein.

Proponents hope that if they can get a horticulturalist in place for the project soon the person will also act as a resource for Pemberton farmers, who could start their own plans to grow all year round.

That would cut down on trucks coming from Vancouver, California even Mexico, and increase the corridor’s food security, said Milstein.

The project, once up and running, is expected to produce about $400,000 net profit annually. The money would go to expand the services of the WCSS and possibly reduce its reliance on grants and municipal aid.

The greenhouse would grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce.