Mountain Vista High School (MVHS) is a pioneer of vertical farming at schools. Their Freight Farming program launched in 2017, with the movement spearheaded by teacher David Larsen. The campus’ Leafy Green Machine farm is utilized by teachers across disciplines — from biology and chemistry to business — to get students out from behind their desks and provide valuable hands-on learning experiences. The Freight Farm has proven itself to be an effective educational tool, impacting students for the better in their high school careers, and even giving them a jump-start for college and other post-high school pathways.
Principal Michael Weaver is an advocate for schools incorporating Freight Farms into their programming. He says, “If someone proposes the idea of dropping one of these on campus, the community feedback, the impact on the kids who’ve really accessed this as their pathway — they have all been more positive than we would have ever imagined.”
Mountain Vista High School’s Freight Farm is primarily used for the Agriculture Business class, which teaches students the fundamentals of business, all through the lens of the Freight Farm. Students in this high school agriculture program play a role in every aspect of farm operations. They seed, transplant, and harvest. They prepare lettuce for sale and then do the selling to teachers and parents who wish to buy farm produce.
Through the process, students learn more than just the lifecycle of plants. They’re also learning about the process of producing a product, ensuring it’s safe and prepared for consumers, and getting it out to the public. In doing so, they’re learning marketing, social media, teamwork, management, communication, literature, process refinement, problem solving, and many other practical, essential skills.
A pathway for nontraditional learners
Mountain Vista is a comprehensive high school, but school administration recognized that there were some gaps. Many students go to college after graduating, but some of the high school’s graduates opt for a different pathway — and Mountain Vista knew they needed an offering for these students. They also wanted an offering for those students who learn better by doing — through practical, hands-on experience rather than books.
The Agriculture Business program, with the Freight Farm as a tool, was their answer. It offers an opportunity for students to learn practical skills applicable out in the real world, and the lessons taught and learned in the Freight Farm are notably tangible compared to textbooks and worksheets in other, more traditional high school classes.