John Hardin High School FFA is Building Community with Hydroponics
Did you know that there are over 735,000 students in more than 8,800 local FFA Chapters in the United States? FFA is a youth organization that prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. These students will grow to work in food production, education, biology, chemistry, politics, veterinary science, engineering, entrepreneurship, and beyond!
USING HYDROPONICS IN FFA PROGRAMS
Fork Farms is proud to be a supporter and partner of over 90 FFA chapters across the country. One of those is the John Hardin Agricultural Education/FFA chapter, who is using their five Flex Farm units to feed their school, learn about hydroponics, and educate others about how to address food insecurity.
John Hardin High School Agricultural Education Teacher Jeremy Hall said the Flex Farm was the best investment he’s made in his career of more than 20 years of teaching.
“We are in an agricultural county, the fourth largest district in the state, but we are an urban school,” Hall said. “When we implemented hydroponics into our curriculum and FFA chapter, my students realized they could produce food indoors and be part of the food insecurity solution.”
ADDRESSING STUDENT FOOD INSECURITY WITH HYDROPONIC GROWING
1 in 5 students at John Hardin is food insecure, and Hall said his students wanted to do something about it. With the Flex Farm, a vertical hydroponic farm, they can. They are harvesting about 50 pounds of lettuce a week with five Flex Farms, which is sold to the school district in collaboration with the food services department, who in turn serves the lettuce for school lunches.
“Flex Farm lettuce days are promoted by the school staff and my ag marketing students, and those days are the only days the food service team sells out of salads,” Hall commented.
Hall has been able to include Flex Farms in all of his classes. The freshman principals of agriculture class works on the basics of the hydroponics systems, including balancing pH and nutrient levels, cleaning, and general maintenance. The sophomore and junior agri-science classes manage the production, scheduling, harvesting, and lunch prep of the salad with the food service staff.
EXPANDED OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH HYDROPONICS
John Hardin FFA members and agricultural students are doing a number of other amazing Flex Farm hydroponics projects, including getting involved with the Kentucky state legislature, attending the county fair with a hydroponics display, providing greens for the local Farm to Plate program, creating a mobile hydroponics education center and so much more.
The county fair appearance will be their chapter’s first ever.
“The joy the kids had when I gave them the news was incredible,” Hall shared. “That would not have happened if they weren’t so passionate about solving food insecurity and the Flex Farms.”
COMMUNITY COLLABORATION THROUGH HYDROPONICS
This chapter has embraced all the possibilities of the Flex Farm and has created a new community, blending both traditional and new agriculture together.
“It’s created a collaboration between our ag communities,” Hall said. “We are learning from each other, having genuine conversations about food insecurity, and the kids in my school feel part of it now. It’s a truly beautiful thing to watch.”
To learn more about how your FFA chapter can integrate the Flex Farm into your school, contact a Fork Farms team member here.
Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hall / John Hardin High School
Author: Alyssa Scriven, Executive Support Leader Fork Farms