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Horticulture students grow a greenhouse full of vegetables for families in need

There’s an old saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That applies to vegetables, too.

With that concept in mind, and facing the COVID-19 crisis, Tidewater Community College and its Horticulture program donated a greenhouse full of vegetables and herbs to eventually provide salads and healthy sides for families in need.

TCC Horticulture students grew a healthy selection of vegetables and herbs in the new greenhouse at Chesapeake Campus.

“When our spring plant sale was cancelled because of the worldwide pandemic, we knew we had to do something to help people in need,” said Andrea Tomlin, assistant professor and program head for Horticulture.

Tomlin contacted the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which connected her with Healthy Chesapeake and the 13 community gardens it supports.

Tomlin’s Crop Production students worked all semester growing plants and herbs, including heirloom tomatoes, peppers, oregano, parsley, sage and even insect-pollinating plants that will help the gardens remain strong.

“My students were so happy to be able to contribute and give back during this time,” Tomlin said. “Taking some positive action and coming together to serve our community has been very rewarding.”

Picking up the donation from TCC’s Andrea Tomlin (left) are Chris Lessick, Calib Miller and Kimi Stevens with Healthy Chesapeake.

The Horticulture program donated five truckloads of plants to Healthy Chesapeake and its Food Connection program that exists to address food insecurity and promote healthy eating. The goal is to reduce chronic disease and improve the quality of life for families, at-risk youth and homebound seniors in need.

“It’s crazy to see how things work out because, with the closing of schools, we lost our crops in the community seed bank, where we raise seedlings for planting across the city. Now with this amazing, huge windfall, our gardens will be able to feed even more people,” said Calib Miller, food connection program manager with Healthy Chesapeake.

Miller called the donation “an incredible boon and bounty for us.”

Healthy Chesapeake supports community gardens that include Atlantic Shores Christian School, Historic South Norfolk Community Garden, Cambridge Square Apartments and Wildcat Garden at Great Bridge High.

Horticulture students also grew 25,000 annual bedding plants that would typically benefit the community. Now they will be planted on TCC’s four campuses. Tomlin added, “While we miss being on campus, we are happy that the fruits of our labor will be enjoyed by students and faculty when we return.”

To learn more about TCC’s Horticulture program, email Tomin at