St. Marcus Lutheran students learning hydroponic farming

Six St. Marcus Lutheran students are learning how to use hydroponic farming to grow lettuce, in the dead of winter, in just seven weeks.

Their hydroponic system sits in the corner of the school cafeteria and used a little over 30 gallons of water to grow fresh veggies. Eighth-grade farmers McKalynn Ester and Terrance Thomas have a simple conversation about their project while harvesting some of the lettuce, that shows they're learning. 

"We want to compost it," said Thomas. 

"I mean just a lot of roots and nutrients are going to wast," said Ester.

Student Activities Coordinator Jamie Shorts jumps at any opportunity to get the students hands-on learning. The hydroponic system is no different and is happy with the results. 

"They get it. They have really embraced the wholeness of this project, from start to finish," said Shorts. 

The final part of this project is a presentation and taste test by some notoriously picky eaters, St Marcus Fourth Graders.

To make sure their dishes looked and tasted great, raw vegan chef Caroline Carter, helped the group create their own recipes. 

Carter argues that children do love vegetables. She says the thought that Wisconsinites only eat meat and cheese is false, all you have to do is make it taste good. 

But LaRann Allison wasn't convinced the younger kids would even touch their plates. Plates with a bed of lettuce held red onions, turkey, mangoes, while other plates had lettuce, bacon, tomatoes. There was even a berry smoothie with lettuce in it. 

"My personal first thought was, that they weren't going to like it. It kinda brings a smile to my face that they actually like what we're doing," Allison said. 

Ester was shocked the students were so engaged in their presentation.

"I can see that what I do impacts the little kids. They look up to us and it's just really amazing to see," said Ester.  

The eighth-grade farmers admit they aren't exactly eating the healthiest. Both Ester and Allison admit to lazy habits of Pop Tarts and other quick easy meals. Fellow farmer Arianna Wagner couldn't lie either. 

"I'm gonna be honest. I wasn't too healthy. But, I'm also going to say my mother is very healthy...So, I'm definitely going to look for healthier alternatives," said Wagner. 

Thomas is a chef at a family restaurant and agrees that overall their project and presentation was a success. As someone who likes to cook he's happy the children want to make healthy dishes.   

Since this hydroponic farming project was a pilot program for St Marcus, Shorts says she's looking forward to expanding it next year.  

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