FFA members at Moore High School, located about 10 miles south of Oklahoma City, grow produce in an unconventional way. In 2018, Moore FFA launched an impressive aquaponics system: They raise tilapia and bluegill to help nourish carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choy, peppers, squash, zucchini, and more. “We’re an urban school, so we don’t have traditional livestock programs. Aquaponics is a great way to get our students involved in agriculture,” says Jessica Dunlap, Moore FFA advisor.
Every product of the system goes to good use. At the end of the school year, after picking the produce, students harvest and fillet the fish to take home. “We have a vacuum sealer so students can package the fish and eat that protein at home,” Dunlap says.
Members are responsible for taking care of the entire system, from the fish to the plants. Their system keeps growing; the chapter received Grants for Growing funds last fall that helped purchase more fish, seeds, and water-quality testing supplies.
Moore FFA members work on their entries for the recipe challenge.
“I challenged students to find a recipe such as a stir fry, and they had 30 minutes to go to the greenhouse, harvest their greens, and execute their entire recipe. Then they got to eat it,” Dunlap says. “They had to incorporate a protein, such as chicken or beef, and they used different kinds of oils. They got super creative.”
The chapter donated leftover produce to faculty and staff at Moore High School. Next year, they hope to raise enough produce to donate to community programs. “Our extra produce was gone within 10 minutes, so we know there is a lot of demand for it,” Dunlap says. “Our goal is to have enough produce to provide for food programs next year. Our school has a backpack food program for kids to take food home. We’d like to be able to provide fresh foods for them.”
Learning to grow food using aquaponics has been an eye-opening experience for members. Crum used what she learned to start her own miniature hydroponics system at home where she grows tomatoes and flowers for her family. “Before we started our aquaponics program, I never even knew it was a possibility to grow food that way,” Crum says. “Seeing this system gave me so many ideas about growing food. I love ag class because I get to grow food and do amazing hands-on work.”
Read the complete article at www.ffa.org.