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Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:38

Students take lettuce from greenhouse to cafeteria

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It doesn’t get much fresher than this.

Horticulture students at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva are helping to feed their peers by supplying the school cafeteria with lettuce.

Students are growing lettuce hydroponically in a greenhouse, where plant roots grow in a nutrient-rich water rather than soil.

“Our students are really benefitting from this program,” said Jeremy Jones, the horticulture teacher. “Not only are they learning about an important agricultural process, they’re also getting to see the results of their work as the lettuce ends up in salads in the cafeteria where they eat.”

The idea was initiated by Jackson County Schools Nutrition Director Jim Hill, who brought the idea with him from Haywood Community College. Horticulture students there do the same thing.

It took a while to perfect the growing system and experiment with varieties of leaf lettuce that would produce the most yield.

Students in the horticulture class learned how to harvest the leaves for the first time recently. By taking the outside leaves and leaving the new growth in the center, the plant will continue to produce a harvest for quite some time. Students have also had the benefit of a visit from Jackson County Farmer William Shelton, owner of Shelton Family Farms, who has been growing hydroponic bibb lettuce for commercial sale for 24 years. His firsthand experience has encouraged several students to consider this as a successful alternative to conventional farming.

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