Theodore Her and Ab Sheng Xiong had a different concept of farming. The juniors at Vincent High School thought farming would be outside in the elements with their hands in the soil. That changed when they were asked to participate in a grant-funded program to start a hydroponics farm — growing leafy green vegetables and herbs — in a basement classroom at their far northwest-side school.
"We didn't think this was possible," Xiong said of the bounty of vegetables they’ve grown. “I didn’t know that hydroponics was a thing,” Her added.
The Grow Room's crops came from identifying different ethnic cultures within the school and asking students what they eat at home. The school has several Hmong students and bok choy and tatsoi topped the list.
The goal is to change students’ palate by trying foods and vegetables from different cultures, Xiong said. She, too, admitted she was unfamiliar with many of the foods in their hydroponics farm, like spring raab and tatsoi.
“Our main focus is making sure that we have culturally diverse foods so that people could learn about them, too,” Xiong said. “We are so culturally diverse in Milwaukee, and we want people to see what others are eating to understand their foods, why they eat this and that.”
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