Skip to main content

Bella Greenhouse & Educational Center

Sowing the seeds for success

20090325 Bella Greenhouse 1 webMore than 100 years ago, the Northern Rivers campus on Academy Road in Albany was farmland. As buildings went up and more youth made this place their home, much of the food they ate was grown right here. Working the land helped thousands of youth develop a connection with the earth and build skills to last lifetimes.

That tradition continues today with the Bella Greenhouse and Educational Center. Created in 2002 thanks to a lead gift from the Luzzi Family and a grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region, Inc., and sustained by a 2018 gift from the estate of Sandra Ferri, and with additional support from the Capital Region Workforce Investment Board, Bella (an acronym for Botanical Expressions of Linda Luzzi Affection) Greenhouse is an integrated program of our Neil Hellman School. Bella Greenhouse offers horticultural lessons and workshops to classes, providing real-world, hands-on connections to classroom concepts, as well as vocational training for interested youth focused on developing job skills.

20090325 Bella Greenhouse 2web

Under the leadership of a greenhouse coordinator, youth are involved in a variety of work:

  • Youth focus on multiple study areas in horticulture, agriculture, and environmental stewardship, all of which illustrate the student’s part in the earth ecosystem. The greenhouse also provides a place for respite in its sanctuary with its pond with fish trained to eat from student’s hands, sensory plants (smell, touch, and taste), music. and wind chimes.

  • A school community garden, cultivating vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Food will be shared with the school community, and the greenhouse will oversee flower beds throughout the Northern Rivers Albany campus. Using the principles of biodynamic gardening and farming, students will work through a program designed to teach soil studies that feed the soil first, so that plants produce food, herbs, and flowers within the ecosystem of the soils. The produce from these programs are used in Northern Rivers' daily food services offerings; the herbal classees teach students the power of herbs in wellness, and floral design, where students take part in the joyful sharing of their own designs with staff on the Albany campus

  • Compost and vermiculture, helping youth to eliminate food waste, understand the importance of recycling, and learn more about our ecosystem.

  • Click here to meet our Greenhouse Coordinator, Karoline Hart
    As coordinator of the Bella Greenhouse and Educational Center, Karoline Hart develops and implements greenhouse operations to incorporate vocational, educational, and student support opportunities. She is the founder of Known Source Farm in Ballston Spa, a community-supported agriculture initiative. She also has nearly a decade of experience as a support worker with Schenectady ARC and serves as an ultimate Frisbee coach at Skidmore College. She earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is an ongoing participant in the Cornell small farm education program. She is currently enrolled in a horticulture classes at SUNY Cobleskill.

20100430 Bella Greenhouse 30 webClick here for fact sheet







There’s always something new coming up at the Bella Greenhouse and Educational Center. Here’s what’s been growing on lately: 

March 1, 2022

It's been a busy season at the greenhouse, with a host of new activities and a whole lot of excitement around some great new programs. Whether it's growing herbs for the kitchen staff at the Neil Hellman School to use in preparing school lunches, training fish in the pond, or getting ready for Valentine's Day, there's always something going on.

Valentines Day Greenhouse

Valentines Day Workers2

Valentines Day Workers

Feeding the FishTrained FIsh Waiting to be feed3