Just north of Heinz Field, in the shadow of Route 19, more than 2,200 poinsettias are getting ready to bloom.
Walking through the interlocking greenhouses of The Drew Mathieson Center, Director of Operations Mark Wallace explains that cultivating a rotating selection of specialty crops is a key source of funding for the nonprofit. After they finish with the holiday favorite poinsettia, they’ll move on to selling hydrangeas for Mother’s Day.
When the educational greenhouse complex first opened 15 years ago this past January, it grew only orchids, which were booming in popularity. But big horticulture soon figured out how to mass produce the flowers at cut rates. Like Gregor Mendel’s pea plants, The Drew Mathieson Center had to adapt.
“The plants and technology in the building have changed substantially” in the last 15 years, says Wallace. “We have evolved throughout the life of our unique operating model.”
That operating model takes the revenue from the center’s various retail ventures selling plants, flowers, and herbs, and funnels it toward educating adult students in the finer points of horticulture science.