Recent grants of $500 from the McDonalds’s Owner’s Association has allowed teachers to expand their impact with the school.
FACS teacher Mr. Fisher and Industrial Technology teacher Mr. Figy partnered up with the grant to create a farming experience that will be unknown to most students.
“The grant was through the McDonald’s Owner’s Association. It is for $500 to build table-top hydroponic farms. It will allow us to grow fresh vegetables like lettuce, peppers, and possibly some herbs in the garden,” Mr. Fisher said.
Before receiving the grant, Mr. Fisher had to fill out paperwork and create a business plan on how the program would work.
“In order to receive the grant, I filled out all of the required paperwork. I also have experience in growing things hydroponically. In fact, I have a lettuce farm at home. Other than that, I have worked alongside Mr. Figy to determine what we would need, expenses, and create a budget for it,” Mr. Fisher said. “Our mission is to help other students realize the importance of growing things and also give some of the grown foods back to the students in need of it.”
Although expensive at the start it is possible to save money down the road.
“One of the hindrances of hydroponics is the startup costs. From the cost of the lettuce seed, rockwool, nutrients for the water, and the growing light in the end, it will cost about three cents per head of lettuce. Comparing that to the cost at a grocery store, it is quite the cost-savings. The $500 will be enough to build everything we need. We are going to build three little farms around some 18 plants running at any time. We also think it needs to look attractive, so some of the money went to Mr. Figy to buy some fancy wood. This gives him a chance to show off his creativity and how awesome his carpentry skills are,” Fisher said.
Mr. Figy hopes to use this project for more than just farming experience.
“I could use this project for landscaping as well. If the project keeps expanding, I would eventually like to build a small greenhouse outside of the school. This would allow us to work around three seasons, and Mr. Fisher’s hydroponics will cover all four,” Mr. Figy said.
Mr. Fisher has previous experience with hydroponics.
“In hydroponics the plants sit in rockwool cubes, like what some homes use for insulation, because it can hold its moisture allowing a place for the seed to sit and grow. Eventually, the roots will grow out of the cubes and they will be transferred into larger cups. When this happens, the growing light is brought out and it really ramps up the growth, doubling the size in just one day,” Fisher said. “Then, the roots will sit in a tray of water where a stream of fertilized water no more than a couple centimeters deep will pass by its roots. When the water passes by, the plant will collect what it needs and the excess water will go back into the reservoir where the rest of the water is. This process takes about 6-8 weeks depending on the type of lettuce, from seed to when we can start harvesting it.”
Despite the harsher weather, some vegetables and greens can be grown in the winter.
“The growing season can change so that you are not limited to foods grown outside, during freezing weather. This way you can grow things like lettuce and herbs all year round; the growing light makes this a capability,” Mr. Figy said.
Even in farming, there are factors the farmer needs to consider, and science is a huge part of it.
“Some think that a farmer just lays a seed in the ground and it grows, but there is a lot more behind it. He knows heat units, the humidity, and the temperature. When it hits a certain point, it is one heat unit. Once he knows it hits 100 heat units, he will harvest,” Mr. Figy said. “This project is like a miniature farm in which you are growing a specific crop that can be done in a small area. Since I love gardening, my plan is to make a stand that will make it look nice with an adjustable shelf for the growing light.”
In starting up a project, there are the creators’ hopes for it. Mr. Fisher opens up to what his are.
“One of my biggest hopes is that we build up momentum and passion to find students who are passionate about learning something like this, getting involved, or enjoying green, leafy vegetables and are willing to help us grow. It may turn into a club, but for now I am having my TA’s assist me with low maintenance things like checking water each day to make sure that it is in the appropriate conditions and still flowing across each plant,” Fisher said. “Figy and I’s long term goal is to make a club out of this. It would be great if we expanded the operation.”
Mr. Fisher is open to talking about hydroponics to any and all students.
“Once the project is up and running, I would love for people to come down to my room and check it out in room K111. It something I am truly passionate about and can talk all day about it if you gave me the chance,” Mr. Fisher said.