From Seeds to School Lunch

By Kurt Liedtke for the Herald and News

In about a month, Shasta Elementary School students will be eating lettuce for lunch that they have watched grow from seed.

The first crop of lettuce was planted Wednesday morning in the school’s Juice Plus Tower Garden, an aeroponic system that uses water, liquid nutrients, and lights to grow produce indoors. Henley High School freshman Lanie Cox helped fourth-graders Bailey Gelhardt and Sophie Rietdyk plant three types of lettuce – butter crunch, burpee bibb and gourmet – in the futuristic-looking planter.

Shasta Elementary School Principal Randy Rose called the new tower garden an initial step towards his goal of having a full-size, operating greenhouse on the school campus. The school plans to start a garden club for students this spring.

“This is the appetizer,” he said. “It’s important for kids to understand how to grow food. There’s more to it than just putting a seed in the dirt and watering it.”

Students crowded around the lighted tower as school started, firing questions at Anna Barlowe, a FoodCorps service member who teaches nutrition and helps with Farm to School programs at Shasta and Henley elementary schools. She explained how a timer releases water and liquid nutrition to help the plants grow without soil.

The tower garden system was originally purchased in 2017 by Cox and classmate Holly Parker as a sixth-grade TAG (Talented and Gifted) project for Henley Elementary School. Since Henley wasn’t using the system anymore, P.E. teacher Tiffany Poe, who works at both schools, arranged for the tower to be donated to Shasta.