Badger HS students growing knowledge--and food
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Badger High School student Marc Hughes gets some help from teacher Candice Olson as he plants seeds in ground-up coconut shells. The shells are ground in the Badger greenhouse, where students are using hydroponics, which emphasizes cultivating plants in mineral and nutrient solutions instead of soil. Terry Mayer photo.
Badger students are planting seeds with a view towards the agricultural future with vertical farming projects. Terry Mayer photo.
LAKE GENEVA -- Growing vegetables without soil? Planting rows vertically, not horizontally?
That’s just crazy talk, right? Or is it?
Classes in botany, greenhouse management and environmental awareness at Badger High School are exploring such outside-the-box topics and turning their learning experiences upside down -- and they’re hoping to bring the rest of the student body with them.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
The school’s agriscience department has received several grants, including a $10,000 Farmers Grow Rural Education award from Monsanto, to implement a project called Vertical Farming: Growing the Future Generations Via Farm to School.
Instructor and FFA adviser Candice Olson said the funding opens many doors for students, not only teaching them how to grow vegetables and what pests and diseases to look out for, but everything involved in getting their food from a seed to the dinner table while helping them become more informed consumers.
“A bunch of local farmers nominated the school, so we went ahead and filled everything out for the grant in hopes of getting funding for students in math and science,” said Olson, who grew up in Fort Atkinson and has been at Badger for five years. “They’re also learning engineering, but a big part of it is that we wanted our kids to take ownership of this project and the culinary programs. We wanted to expand the whole initiative of farm and food to the school.”
The effort’s five main goals are:
• Bring awareness to nutrition and the advantages of vertical farming
• Teach botany and greenhouse concepts to enhance school lunch through the production of fresh, local produce
• Teach students state-of-the-art technology to grow produce
• Alternative growing methods other than traditional farming agriculture
• Improve school lunch with fresh local produce
They’re accomplishing those goals by turning their small greenhouse into a vertical farming operation, complete with an irrigation system and a strategy called hydroponics, which emphasizes cultivating plants in mineral or nutrient solutions instead of soil, such as in coconut husks.
So, they’ll be growing lettuce, spinach, other greens, tomatoes and other herbs and vegetables while educating other students and faculty alike.