RICHMOND, Ky. —A group of Central Kentucky high school students is growing lettuce on campus.
It’s happening inside a container farm at Madison Central High School in Richmond, through a partnership with AppHarvest.
In April 2021, they unveiled the indoor farm on Earth Day, and almost one year later, they continue to reap the benefits.
“We can grow lettuce from seeds to the wall in about a span of four weeks,” said Abby Rose, a senior student focusing on Agriculture classes with a greenhouse/horticulture track. “I’ve grown up on a farm where it takes a lot more than that. So how fast this process goes and how fast we can get this lettuce store cafeteria. It’s definitely gratifying.”
She and her classmates are working in the shipping container turned into a farm.
“Right now we are seeding the Tropicana leaf lettuce for our container farm,” Rose said.
She explains, once they put each seed in the peak plugs, the whole flat will then go to the germination table to sprout, and after a couple of weeks, the students will transplant the baby lettuce to the vertical columns.
"It makes you feel like you have accomplished something and done something really important. So from going to a seed to sprout to full growing lettuce on the wall and then seeing that in your own cafeteria. That's just life-changing for some kids," Rose said.
Their teacher is Derek Adams.
"It allows our students to learn more about growing plants, hydroponically, and kind of the future technologies that are involved in agriculture specifically for plant growing," Adams said. "And how we can provide fresh vegetables to our local communities in some different ways that we could even grow them on a smaller scale than what we have here at home."
Adams said in this small space they can grow roughly 13,000 plants.
“We can educate our students about new inventive ways to grow plants and so you don’t have to be out there with a tiller in a hoe working in the garden. And that’s fine, that’s how I grew up, but there are these other cool ways that we can grow plants,” Adams said.
Once the lettuce is ready to harvest, the students use proper safe food handling measures to bag and distribute the lettuce to the school’s cafeteria.