Students at Carrollton Exempted Village School District growing lettuce with the Lettuce Grow Towers.
WATCH: Chieri Kubota Talks Controlled Environment Plant Systems
Welcome to the January edition of the Ohio Farm to School Newsletter featuring Ohio Hydroponics! Hydroponic growing is a form of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) which focuses heavily on the manipulation of light, temperature, water, and nutrients to grow plants. The most common crops grown in controlled environments are lettuce, kale, spinach, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries. The year-round accessibility of hydroponics provides engaging experiences for students, bringing agriculture education into the classroom and beyond. According to Chieri Kubota, professor of controlled environment agriculture in OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, students with greenhouse related jobs are in high demand.
Learn how a few of Ohio districts are using their Farm to School programs and these unique growing systems in classrooms, science labs, and cafeterias. See the entire newsletter here.
Hydroponics in Ohio Schools
Coventry Middle School (Akron, Ohio): Under the leadership of middle school teachers Richard Dudley and Adam Shoemaker, and with generous financial help from Crop King of Lodi and the Coventry Schools Foundation, Coventry Middle School students are growing vegetables hydroponically. In 2021, students from the school’s selective Green Team started growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce as well as composting food waste scraps from the cafeteria. Funds from Crop King supported a new state-of-the-art hydroponics lab that operates two Bato Bucket systems and two NFT systems, an aquaponics system for fish, and students will soon be growing microgreens. The students maintain pH and nutrient levels as well as pollinate, germinate, and promote appropriate plant growth. The lab provides hands-on lessons around photosynthesis, ecosystems, plants and animals.
Top photo: A Green Team member hand pollinates tomato plants. Time in the lab promotes interest in STEM and agricultural careers.
Middle photo: Coventry’s Green Team has expanded to include cafeteria food waste reduction. The students conducted a food waste audit and set up composting bins. The popular club continues to grow with both students and community partnerships, including local sustainability experts.
Bottom photo: This impressive hydroponics lab began with a science teacher’s vision and a $600 purchase of containers. Food grown will be provided to the cafeteria or food pantries.
Parma City Schools (Parma, Ohio): The Nutrition Services Department at Parma City Schools purchases hydroponic lettuce and herbs from local suppliers in the Cleveland area. Hydroponic lettuce from Great Lake Growers and Free Leafy Greens is served exclusively in entree salads for the secondary grades and as a side option for the elementary grades. In addition to using local growers, this bustling farm to school program cultivates produce on site. Growing spans the grades. A high school classroom grows romaine, basil, and kale in an indoor tower garden and Pleasant Valley Elementary (PVE) is home to a beautiful outdoor garden where a wide variety of vegetables, such as corn, kale, peppers, beans, and pumpkins are grown. With access to both indoor and outdoor growing spaces, STEM lessons on planting, growing, and harvesting crops happen year-round. PVE partners with the nonprofit Spice Field Kitchen for garden management and curriculum. The Spice Field Kitchen curriculum was developed by a licensed educator, tied to state standards, and built to satisfy STEM requirements.
Top photo: Greens grown in the elementary school garden are used in their very own cafeteria!
Middle photo: STEM students grow microgreens in classrooms for the cafeteria. “It was amazing to see the joy on their faces when they saw the microgreens they grew on top of a salad in the lunch line!” Emily Gladish, Parma City Schools’ Farm to School Coordinator.
Bottom photo: This food service professional is all smiles knowing their students are receiving the freshest, most nutritious greens. Since the start of the 2021-2022 school year, Parma City Schools has spent over $13,000 on 2,094 pounds of hydroponic produce!
The Greater Stark County Area: The Stark County Educational Service Center (ESC) facilitates the Putting Down Roots Farm to School program for 17 districts throughout the greater Stark County area. Their farm to school program includes the construction of three greenhouses, outdoor raised-beds, in-ground gardens, and a native prairie. There are 17 outdoor school gardens throughout 11 participating districts. Utilizing a shared service model, these gardens can be accessed by 23 schools, ranging from K-12, bringing over 10,000 students the benefits of school garden programming! As impressive as that is, Stark County ESC has found that their indoor, year-round hydroponic growing program is where their schools have even greater success. Using systems purchased by Lettuce Grow, schools can grow throughout the year in a low maintenance way that builds confidence and provides an on-ramp for engagement in farm to school activities. Housed in classrooms or cafeterias, these hydroponic farmstands are utilized in the classroom curriculum, school meals, taste testing events, and allow both students and staff to build their gardening knowledge and gain experience.
Ohio Hydroponic Cultivators
Great Lakes Growers (Burton, Ohio) provides premier hydroponic lettuces and herbs including: 16 varieties of lettuce, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Their products are sold for food service, including school food service.
Vigeo Gardens (Akron, Ohio) is an innovative hydroponic facility growing microgreens, basil, and eight varieties of lettuce. Orders can be placed through Cisco, Sirna and Sons, Northern Haserot, U.S Foods, or directly from the producer. The business also provides opportunities for students to learn about career opportunities related to hydroponics.
Great Lakes Growers and Vigeo Gardens are just two of the many hydroponics growers in Ohio!
Make this dish. Make an impact. When you choose to buy, prepare, and eat fresh, local foods, it’s better for you and your community! Download Feed our Future’s Tangerine Chicken Lettuce Wrap(PDF)Links to a PDF document. recipe featuring locally grown hydroponic lettuce. Cook and share with #feedourfutureohio #ohiofarmtoschool.Yum!
Save the date! 2022 Ohio Farm to School Network meetings:
State-level updates will take place 9:30 am -11 am, with region-specific discussions 11 am – noon.