For more than a month, two types of lettuce have been growing in hydroponic flex farms at the end of the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School cafeteria. On Monday, students got a chance to harvest and taste the veggies of their labor.

Anne Rogerson, director of partnership development at Fork Farms, demonstrated to students how to gently lift each head of romaine lettuce from the pod where it has been growing and remove the long root system that has been supplying it with water and nutrients. The students harvested the lettuce themselves.

“They felt proud,” said Sharon King, an autism and special needs teacher at the school. “They understood that they were growing food for the lunch community. They took pride in that. They were very diligent in checking PH balance, nutrients needed, and water levels. And they had planted the seeds, so they were in it to win it, and they won.”

On Tuesday, fresh salads will be served for lunch from the lettuce the students grew and harvested. Tascin Brooks, food service director for Youngstown City Schools, said there are 21 hydroponic farms in the school district, which allows the students to grow food year-round. In just one farm machine, students can grow up to 144 heads of lettuce or a variety of other edible plants such as cucumbers, basil or other herbs. With two in each school, the crops can be rotated to allow there to be a fresh crop available all of the time.

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