When we talk about farm to school programming, words like “entrepreneurial” and “high-tech” might not spring immediately to mind. Yet, that’s the way the wind is blowing. On a recent visit to The Kennedy Space Center, our Exec Director Natalie snapped this photo of hydroponic towers designed to produce fresh fruit and vegetables in all sort of radical environments including Earth, space stations and even Mars.
And we don’t have to travel to Florida to view the power of entrepreneurship. You’ve read or seen what’s happening at Ashwaubenon High School, but did you know the Oneida Nation School System (ONSS) currently operates an aquaponics program that produces up to 50% of the greens used by the district each month? This past month, ONSS also completed their first tilapia harvest, dishing up 40 pounds of fish for local veterans as well as the aquaponics team. And on March 8, West De Pere High School, in partnership with The Farmory, will be launching their new soil-based aquaponics program. The program will allow West De Pere to buy this hyper-local, fresh produce for use in school meals.
Recently, Live54218 conducted an informal survey of the Brown County school systems that make-up our regional Farm to School Task Force to get a feel for the extent of indoor growing systems. The results blew us away! Currently, three districts tend active hoop houses, four have hydroponic systems and five of the districts house aquaponics capacity. And remember that photo Natalie sent? Turns out we only have to travel to St. Norbert College to see grow towers in action.
It’s results like these that reinforce the belief that we’re at a tipping point in local food production. And speaking of the Kennedy Space Center, we’re reminded that the effort to put an American on the moon began with an audacious goal set by President John F. Kennedy. By setting that goal, and directing energy and funds to support it, many unknowns become knowns and impossibles became possible.
Turn schools into food systems? Students into gardeners, scientists and entrepreneurs? Why not? That’s the kind of vision we hold for our community – to infinity and beyond!