Stakeholders and sponsors of Blue Ridge Community College's new automated greenhouse project officially kick off the construction project during a groundbreaking ceremony on March 4."

Blue Ridge Community College Begins Construction of Automated Greenhouse in Henderson County

Featured photo: Stakeholders and sponsors of Blue Ridge Community College’s new automated greenhouse project officially kick off the construction project during a groundbreaking ceremony on March 4.


HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – The site of a soon-to-be state-of-the-art automated greenhouse attracted educators, community members, elected officials and industry leaders from across the region to Blue Ridge Community College on March 4. The new 4,727 sq. ft. greenhouse will be used for instruction in technology-centered agricultural methods, training for employees for local agribusinesses and to encourage interdisciplinary learning activities between the College’s related programs, such as information technology, cybersecurity, engineering technology and advanced manufacturing.

Located on Blue Ridge’s Henderson County Campus in Flat Rock, the new greenhouse will be adjacent to the College’s existing greenhouse near the Spearman Building at 150 East Campus Drive. The facility is funded by a combined $1.25M provided by the Golden LEAF Foundation and Cannon Foundation, with additional infrastructure support provided by Henderson County.

During the event, Blue Ridge president Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood called the greenhouse a symbol of growth for both Blue Ridge’s horticulture program and the area’s agribusinesses.

“It’s also a symbol of our ability to come together to meet a need,” she said, “ensuring that Blue Ridge graduates will continue to learn the right skills for tomorrow’s jobs.”

In 2023, North Carolina State University called agriculture North Carolina’s “number one industry,” reporting that the sector generated 16% of the $662B gross state product, employing nearly one in five workers.

Blue Ridge’s Board of Trustees previously selected Clark Nexsen Architects for design and Cooper Construction for installation of the greenhouse. When complete, the facility will feature a translucent polycarbonate glazed roofing, attached bathrooms and automated climate controls.

Speakers at the groundbreaking event included, in order, John B. “Chip” Gould, chairman of Blue Ridge Community College’s Board of Trustees; Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College; Scott Hamilton, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation; Kara Hemenway King, program officer at the Cannon Foundation; Rachel Meriwether, horticulture instructor; and Rebecca McCall, chair of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners.

In her remarks, instructor Rachel Meriwether said that specialized knowledge is needed in a modern automated greenhouse to precisely control factors such as humidity, light and temperature. The strategy is different, for example, if a grower is working to achieve floral growth versus vegetative growth.
“Horticulture in particular is the kind of field where it’s difficult to truly understand what you’re learning in a classroom alone,” she said “This state-of-the-art facility will allow our students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to real-life scenarios.”

The new greenhouse is projected for completion in the summer of 2025.

“As we break ground today, let us also break barriers, expand boundaries, and plant the seeds of success and possibility,” said Dr. Leatherwood. “Through this new facility, let us cultivate a brighter, greener future – one rooted in knowledge, growth, and collaboration.”

More information about Blue Ridge Community College’s degrees, diplomas and certificates in horticulture technology is available at www.blueridge.edu/horticulture.