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    Stevens Point Area Public School District
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    Stevens Point, WI 54481 

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    Sarah O'Donnell

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Around the District

  • Growing and Giving Back

    Posted by Stevens Point Area Public School District on 4/22/2021

    Student prepares lettuce


    The Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) Agriculture Department with the leadership of Agri Science Instructor Stephanie Beranek purchased a Flex Farm grow tower in the Fall of 2020 from Fork Farms of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  

    Students plant lettuce in tower

    The Flex Farm hydroponic tower consists of several white panels each of which contain 36 upward-angled cups that provide a location in which to place rockwool for seedling growth. The tower panels fit into a base that contains a water tank that provides a constant flow of water through the tower to nourish the growing lettuce. In the center of these vertical panels stands a vertical array of grow lights that bath the towers in stimulating rays for 16 to 18 hours a day.

    Student move lettuce to tower

    Initial germination begins in the SPASH greenhouse, after which the seedlings are then transplanted into the tower. In February of 2021, with set up complete, the water tanks filled and the grow lights ready, and the seedling germinated, the process of “planting” the seedlings in tower cups began.

    Students learn to balance the ph of the water

    Each week students check pH levels and evaluate nutrient content of water in the storage tanks and adjust as needed.  The tower allows students to better observe the miracle of fresh lettuce plant growth.  From seeding to consuming, students participate in every step of the journey. They not only learn the process of growing their own food, but they learn some of the complexities involved as well.  

    lettuce harvest

    Projects also have a way of growing. The original plan was to use the lettuce as a healthy snack for the agriculture students to consume in class. Also, it would provide food for the department’s rabbits and guinea pigs.  Then first harvest came. Whoa!  There was so much more lettuce than anticipated.  The cornucopia spilled over to sharing with Family Consumer classes.

    lettuce being used in salads for students at the school

    The abundant harvest led us to seek the help of the food service department. Perhaps they could make good use of this product.

    They did! Brooke Ananiadis, SPASH Food Service Supervisor found a way.

    The harvest provided lettuce for many tasty and colorful entrées.

    Students enjoying the salads

    And students couldn’t get enough.

    From germination in the greenhouse to harvesting the final product takes about 30 days. This trial year provided great data on how the process works. Next school year, a more efficient process is sure to provide fresh lettuce monthly to students.  

    student holding lettuce to transfer to tower

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