Farm fresh lettuce is now being served on Hamilton School District salad bars. Lettuce is one of several crops grown using new vertical hydroponic farming units. The unique design of the hydroponic units grows food faster and requires less electricity, 98% less land space and 98% less water than traditional agriculture. These farming units will provide long term cost savings, give students hands-on learning opportunities and result in the addition of sustainable and organic produce to school lunch menus.
The Food and Nutrition Department has partnered with the Hamilton High School science department, the Science Club, a grade 5 science class and a grade 6 Health and Wellness class to help maintain the farms. Students in these groups will have an opportunity to help with weekly PH testing and other tasks incorporated into learning.
The District just began using the hydroponic farming units this fall. Director of Nutritional Services Kira King oversees the entire process. “These farming units provide an incredible opportunity on many levels. Our food service staff is excited to work with students to grow fresh produce right here in our schools, giving students a direct connection to the process. Providing our students with wholesome, organic produce, harvested onsite, is something we are very proud of.”
Four units are housed in the Hamilton High School science department and two units are housed at Silver Spring Intermediate School. The locations were chosen because the District’s production kitchens are located at the high school and intermediate school. The units will be used to harvest produce for district salad bars and to grow ingredients for other menu items.
Each hydroponic farming unit typically produces 25 pounds of greens every 30 days at 40 cents per pound. Purchasing leafy greens through a distributor costs $3.30 per pound. These farming units will provide long term cost savings for the Food and Nutrition Department and an opportunity for great scientific collaboration.