Growing Hope is an organization that has been working to integrate hydroponic technology into San Andreas High School, located in San Bernardino, California, as part of a larger career pathway for the students at the school.
Brit Steele, alongside his wife and four other team members, developed the Growing Hope Project to create a Career and Technical Education program for high school students so they can learn real world skills and also receive a certification at the end of the courses.
Prior to starting the Growing Hope Project, Brit was working with a community based organization that focused on urban farming. Through this he started learning about hydroponics and came across an AmHydro video and eventually found himself at an AmHydro seminar.
Brit started with an NFT 48 system and has now set up a full greenhouse with an NFT system in it for the students to learn to grow on. In addition to the greenhouse, the old boys locker room at the school has been renovated into a growing lab that is used by the special needs students at the school so they can participate in the career pathway as well. According to Brit, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is an emerging industry in southern California and that manufacturing is also a big industry in their area. By creating a student business pathway focused on manufacturing perishable products, the Growing Hope Team hopes that the training and skills the students learn from the hydroponics systems and technology will help prepare them for a career in a related industry once they graduate.
COVID-19 has made running the greenhouse and grow lab difficult but they are still growing fresh produce to give away in the community. They have been donating the produce to food pantries and are offering local pick up as well. While the original plan was to have the produce be used in school lunches for the students and staff at San Andreas High and surrounding schools, COVID-19 has put a pause on that since schools are all online. Brit said that he has found it’s hard to run a commercial program like the greenhouse on an educational schedule, but they are making it work. Even though schools are going to be online again this fall, staff is still planning to operate the greenhouse and will continue to grow fresh produce.
The ultimate goal is to make this program available for students in kindergarten to 12th grade so that they are able to continue learning about CEA and gaining skills year after year that will prepare them to be successful in a related industry once they graduate. To learn more about Growing Hope Project and the work they are doing at San Andreas High School check out their website.