Hopefully it’s past the point where we can put the genie back in the bottle.
With any luck, farm to school, which began seven years ago as part of a broader healthy eating campaign in Greater Green Bay, will be unrecognizable in a few years. Spurred on by classroom lessons and inspired by local family farms embracing new growing methods, a whole generation of students is learning about the critical importance of sustainable food systems and an increasing number of area schools are embracing available tools to become active participants in one – the school food system.
Quick primer: in this month’s blog we’re going to be talking about some non-traditional growing systems: hydroponics (which can be as simple as the tabletop system at West De Pere Middle School we featured in our blog last week or as wildly inspiring as the works at local farm Ledgeview ), aquaculture, and aquaponics. Hydroponics uses only water and chemical nutrients to cultivate plants, aquaculture is the farming of fish or other aquatic organisms such as algae, and aquaponics marries the two, using waste from farmed fish to cultivate plants for food.
And it’s becoming a real “thing.” Check out this update from Dan Albrent, the science teacher at Ashwaubenon High School we chatted with last summer. Dan’s hydro and aquaponics efforts have provided 75 heads of lettuce so far this year and, from the photos, more are on the way!
When I reached out to Betsy Farah, the head of the Ashwaubenon School District Food Service, she confirmed her department’s excitement.
“We included all of it into school meals,” says Farah. “Everything that comes from Dan is used the day it is picked!”
What’s amazing about Dan’s system is that it’s a grassroots effort and shows that it’s possible to get a system rolling with little to no funding input. Dan rigged his up from commonly available items, so it’s an engineering project as well as a garden. Dan’s vision is also sustainable – as the Food Service purchases lettuce, more equipment can be built.
Stay tuned for next week, when we feature some of the other high-tech grow ops in the Greater Green Bay Area!