It’s been just over a week, and an entire section of the agriculture classroom at Ag PTECH already is starting to look a lot like an active greenhouse.
Using grant funds, the school recently purchased the 2445 Organics SuperGrow System, which consists of vertical stainless-steel racks with grow lights and trays that allow for water to be soaked up from the bottom of the plants. The patented system provides a timed, consistent light source and an irrigation method that helps control soil loss and nutrients.
Freshmen and sophomores have started their produce growing efforts with two kinds of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and basil.
“The goal right now is to produce enough fresh salad for students and staff,” said Brandon Trinkle, the Ag PTECH agriculture teacher. He said although high school students aren’t typically big salad eaters, having a hand in its production could change that. “When students are involved in it, they’re more likely to buy into it and want to eat it,” he said.
Ag PTECH is still developing long-term plans for its grant-funded high tunnel greenhouse, which will be moved to Johnstown when the school co-locates with the Foothills PTECH and HFM PTECH programs beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
The indoor system, which is on wheels and can be easily moved, is intended as a way to supplement the horticulture education provided by growing plants in the high tunnel. Trinkle said plants can be started inside and transferred to the greenhouse in warmer weather.
In fact, students planted some extra trays of cucumber-starts in the greenhouse this week with the hopes that an early spring will result in an extended growing opportunity in the sheltered structure.
“Agriculture students need something in their school where they can see progress all year long,” Trinkle said.
Trinkle also noted the educational benefits of and seeing how agriculture methods are evolving, something students also recognize. “It’s definitely valuable to learn these techniques,” freshman Caden Douglas said. “This is the future of farming.”