“Essentially, this 8-by-40-foot footprint of a farm is growing the equivalent of an intensively harvested, full acre of conventional farmland,” explained Jason Yeagle, the nutrition director at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School. “It’s a very compact, efficient way of growing a lot of food.”
The new hydroponic system will be used to grow produce for the school’s cafeteria, culinary students, and the community, he said. The day-to-day operations of the farm will be incorporated into the school’s curriculum, including engineering, environmental sciences, and business.
The $145,000 farm, which was purchased via a grant from the state’s Food Security Infrastructure Grant program, was installed in June with the assistance of the school’s masonry students, Yeagle said. The grant also included money to cover the cost of site preparation and installation. The farm is situated on a concrete pad next to the school’s greenhouse.
The system has been up and running for about two weeks, and the first harvest is anticipated to be ready for the first day of school. “When the students return to school in the fall, they’ll be returning to a farm that’s bursting with greens,” Yeagle said.
They plan to grow a wide variety of plants using the hydroponic system, including lettuce, kale, tomatoes, radish, carrots, beets, cucumbers, and assorted culinary herbs. He said the farm could produce up to 1,000 heads of mono-cropped lettuce per week.
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