Hydroponic farm provides food, education for Menasha High School


    Menasha High School partnered with Fork Farms to create the school's Cupola Crops Hydroponic Farm Oct. 29. 2018. (WLUK/Jerry VanHandel)

    MENASHA, Wis. (WLUK) -- Menasha High School has joined in the movement to grow its own food for student lunches.

    “We can pick it, walk it downstairs, and wash it up and eat it right away,” said Menasha Joint School District director of business services Brian Adesso.

    The high school won’t have to worry about running out of leafy greens for student lunches anytime soon.

    In spring 2018, the school teamed up with Fork Farms and converted an unused classroom into the Menasha High School Cupola Crops hydroponic farm.

    “I wanted to make sure to provide the best quality of leafy greens we possibly could for our population,” Adesso said.

    Currently, three different varieties of lettuce are growing in these hydroponic units: Greensweet, Green Oak and Star.

    But when the idea was brought to Chartwells, who provides the school’s dining services, some of the staff was initially a little hesitant to hop on-board with Fork Farm’s concept.

    “At first, we, of course, were skeptical like, ‘Oh my gosh, growing our own greens, I don’t know,’ but once we went and toured their facility and we realized how much support they’ve offered us, I mean, we just love doing this,” said assistant director of Chartwells, Debra Grossinger.

    With just some seeds and UV LED lights, in only three weeks, the school has itself some self-grown greens.

    “It’s amazing! It’s really good quality,” Grossinger said. “I was actually amazed at how quickly it grows, I didn’t realize that.”

    There’s no messy soil to deal with, and staff says greens have never tasted so good.

    “It tastes amazing. I’ve done presentations elsewhere and had other people try it, and they’re amazed by the taste of the lettuce,” Adesso said.

    The hydroponic system set the school back by about $13,000.

    District leaders said that's what it cost them to buy greens before, so forking over those greens was worth it.

    The fall harvest from Menasha High School’s farm is already in full swing, just in time for the first meals of the 2018-2019 school year.

    School leaders also said they hope someday soon to get students involved in the growing process, and they’re hoping to be able to get four additional pods to supply greens to the entire district.

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