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US (WI): Hydroponics STEM program fosters crop of young gardeners, scientists

A new crop of gardeners is growing in Milwaukee. The hydroponics STEM program introduces high schoolers to agriculture, nutrition, and careers in science. It started focusing on Milwaukee's Amani neighborhood, where residents often have limited access to grocery stores with fresh produce. After its first year, the program is now growing to a second classroom in Muskego Way.

Amani native Mitchelle Lyle, recently recognized through the African American Environmental Pioneer Awards, spent the last decade working as an engineer before returning home to start the program. Lina Tran with WUWM spoke with Lyle as she was getting ready to recruit interested students for the next class. Applications for the program are open now.

How did this program get started? Tell us about how you got into this.
"So I moved back to Milwaukee in 2018. Moving back to my childhood home, where we are now, I wanted to make sure that I was giving back to my community. I'm the youngest of my siblings. So once I moved away to college and out of state for work, no one was here, everybody moved on to their lives."

"When I moved back, I wanted to bring more of that life back into the house, like with my siblings, with my nieces and nephews. I didn't want, you know, a lot of my experience to just kind of be taken as what they call the "brain drain" of Milwaukee. So, I started gardening. I've always known that this area was a food insecure zone, just by living here, right? I always need to drive so far to the grocery store, especially one that has organic produce or even restaurants that aren't very close. So when I was thinking about what's one of the best ways that I could give back or one of the biggest needs, it was food in some capacity."

"I realized we've always kind of done hydroponics. Just like herbs and things, putting it in a cup and letting that grow or an onion that started to sprout. We would put that in water and allow the sprouts to come up as well."

Read the entire story at WUWM

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