Las Positas College's newly constructed horticulture facility and the soon-to-be-completed viticulture building are some examples of how district officials said the college is teaching sustainability while also looking at the Tri-Valley's agricultural history.
"You need knowledgeable people in the workforce to understand how to recommend plants, (how) to run their own landscaping companies," said Nan Ho, dean of science, technology, engineering and math at Las Positas. "This is a pathway for students to actually learn all this, get their certificate or get their degree and then they can actually open their own landscape company."
The new agriculture science facility includes a classroom, greenhouse, shade structure, growing grounds and an orchard area along with new parking spaces.
Some of the most notable amenities that Ho pointed out are the growing grounds, the greenhouse and the shade structure because they provides hands-on learning for students.
"The greenhouse is state-of-the-art," she said. "We have really large temperature fluctuations in Livermore, especially in the summer, so being able to control temperature in a large greenhouse is really important."
Horticulture is a branch of agriculture that deals with the science, technology and business of plant cultivation -- Las Positas offers several classes on the topic as well as different types of certification degrees.
According to the department's website, the horticulture program prepares students for careers in all the major horticultural disciplines including: landscape design and construction; nursery and greenhouse management; floral production and design; turf management; and arboriculture.
In 2017, the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District began drafting the 2018 Facilities Master Plan where students, faculty and other stakeholders provided input on much needed services and upgrades, such as these new facilities.
The funding for the facilities and other upgrades to the district came from a $950 million Measure A bond that was approved by voters in 2016. The bond allows the schools to upgrade technology and science labs and aging classrooms, retrofit buildings for improved safety and security, and acquire facilities and equipment.
After the master plan was developed, work went underway for the horticulture facility. AC Martin was the Pleasanton-based architectural firm that spent 18 months on designing the 8,800-square-foot building along with the surrounding 2-acre space.
At first, the design process saw some hiccups as the land that the facility was originally supposed to be built atop was in dispute. Then, once the design team moved to a different location, there was an issue with the soil.
"With regards to soil, we have some really unique soil at Las Positas College," said Ann Kroll, the project planner for the district who oversees all the bond programs. "We had to have several tests performed before and then during the soil placement ... to make sure that the type of plants that were going to be planted would actually live and survive in the soil."
But after six stressful weeks, Kroll said that was taken care of so that C. Overaa and Company construction could spend the next 14 months building the facility that was made available for students this fall.
For Kroll, one of the aspects of the new facility that she really liked was the spaces for students to get hands-on experience in growing different things.
"The growing grounds is what I think is really great, because students are able to work out there and plant flowers, they're growing vegetables right now up there," Kroll said. "In the orchard they'll be able to plant trees, they have a few lemon trees out there right now that they're growing, and then they'll continue to grow."
Ho said that the developers also left some raised garden beds incomplete so that students and faculty can work together themselves to figure out how and what to plant in those areas.
"The department wanted the entire building and the whole facility to actually be a learning process," she said. "They've been planting in there, they actually had irrigation beds that were just kind left unfinished so that the students and the faculty could learn together ... they were basically co creating this learning space."
The district had recently celebrated the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the facility on Nov. 15 along with roughly 150 district officials, Livermore city officials and community members as well as the construction groundbreaking of the Viticulture and Winery Technology Building.
Viticulture is similar in that it is a branch of the science of horticulture but instead focuses on the cultivation and harvesting of grapes for wine making.
Designed by tBP architecture, a design firm based in Walnut Creek, the new viticulture wine making facility will teach students about the wine industry and will take them through the full journey from growing the grapes to distribution.
Because the college already has a 4-acre vineyard and the surrounding area is rich in wine culture, Kroll and Ho said the new facility will help students get into and understand the entire winemaking business.
"Think of it as literally from a vine to the glass, right, and the students are going to learn the entire process, so this is a pretty remarkable space," Ho said.
Similar to the horticulture facility, the design process took about two years before the construction company, Beals Martin construction, was able to break ground last month.
The 1-acre facility that will be across from the horticulture one will consist of a teaching winery classroom, a wine crush pad and wine barrel storage areas. Crush pads are another way to define the machines that crush the grapes into a juice.
The classroom will also double as a space for students to practice serving the wine and working with potential customers.
And with the college already having a permit to sell wine, Ho said students will really be able to get the full experience of growing their own grapes and selling their finished wine products.
"The student gets every experience," Ho said. "This is a product that people purchase, which is exactly what we need in the Tri-Valley because the wine industry is so important here and it does get to that level."
Kroll said that they expect this facility to be completed in the winter of 2024 -- both she and Ho said that these facilities are open to the public if they want to schedule tours and that these programs will really help bring students who are interested in these sustainable industries.
"It's wonderful to have in one place, sort of a microcosm of the Tri-Valley's agricultural history and our heritage. I think there's a lot of potential there," Ho said. "The horticulture facility becomes a model for sustainable agriculture, as does viticulture winery technology. It's part of our agricultural heritage, it's based on industry input and it's a pathway for our students."