If you take a walk around Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School this year, you’ll eventually see two futuristic-looking white hydroponic tower gardens with different types of greens growing from them.
The 22 students (ranging from grades 9-12) in the food and nutrition class are using the gardens to learn where different crops and food items are grown and how to process them. And they’ll eventually use those crops to benefit the local community.
Teacher Talia Baker said students will care for the plants by properly pruning and harvesting them, completing water tests to analyze the pH of the water, and adding appropriate nutrients to ensure that the plants grow properly.
“The gardens were purchased in hopes of showing students that you don’t necessarily have to live on a farm to grow food. Students in Herkimer have the power to transform their community and to empower others when making food choices,” Baker said.
“Using the spaces that students have at school and at home, they can grow healthy, high-quality food.”
The class has already planted basil, parsley, dinosaur kale, and rainbow Swiss chard, and Baker says students have been involved in the entire process.
“Using hands-on learning, students see the time and effort it goes into making food. They are also able to see something physically growing in front of them, which is a powerful thing,” she said.
Junior Jessi Pfaff echoed that sentiment.
“It’s been so good to learn about,” she said. “This teaches students to grow their own vegetables and give back to the community,” she said.
And giving back to the community is the next step for the class.
Baker said last year, students harvested the plants and gave them to other students/staff while adhering to industry standards and food safety measures. Around that time, the Herkimer Community Fridge (which is a mutual-aid driven community service aimed at providing high-quality food to residents at no charge) began to spring up around town.
Students in Baker’s food production class harvested the greens, and she would then drop them off at the Community Fridge after school.
“It transitioned into an opportunity for students who needed community service hours to be able to come down to the agriculture room, learn how to harvest and bag up the greens, and then drop them off at the Community Fridge,” Baker said.
“This year, after students have learned how to process and prepare different vegetables, greens and herbs in our class, we plan on doing the same thing; bag up, provide simple recipes, and donate all of the extra food grown to our community.”