We’re excited to highlight a grower that is using hydroponics as an educational tool as well as a way to provide local school cafeterias with fresh, local produce for school lunches.
Jonathan Grimes has been teaching agriculture classes at his alma mater, Fort Chiswell High School, for the past 12 years and he also serves on the Virginia Young Farmers Committee.
Jonathan was approached by the school district cafeteria manager about a grant opportunity to help schools get local food for their cafeterias. This grant opportunity allowed Jonathan to get into hydroponics. He had been through several hydroponic workshops before and had been familiar with the method of growing, but up until this point, he didn’t have the funding to purchase a system and get started. This grant allowed the school to purchase and set up an NFT 1200 system and two VC20 systems in a spare classroom and use them to grow fresh produce for the local cafeterias and also serves as an educational tool for the students in the agriculture department.
Jonathan mentioned that the systems will eventually be used in a class where the students will do all of the work. From learning about food safety and food handling, to learning how to properly seed, transplant, and harvest, the ultimate goal is to have students in horticulture classes running the systems. Future plans for the systems include using them for student FFA projects and selling the produce at local farmer’s markets as a way to fundraise for the school. Jonathan also mentioned that science teachers have expressed interest in using the systems in their classes as well.
In the first few weeks of the system being up and running, the systems are already producing up to 90 lb of lettuce per harvest! This lettuce has been going to the 13 different schools in the district and is being used in school lunches for students and staff. While hydroponics may be new to Fort Chiswell High School, Jonathan has big plans for using the systems in the school as well as in the community.