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Unity Garden Hopes to Make Freshly Grown Produce a Part of Student Life

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Kylie Tedeschi '19
14 November 2018

The Unity Garden is expanding the variety and vitality of plants grown on campus. This year, the garden is honing its sights on hydroponically grown produce that can be grown year-round. Mr. Billy Goodman and Mr. Randall Sanders are collaborating with the school cafeteria to provide fresh, organically grown, and cost-effective produce for school lunches. Pomptonian Food Service logo; photo credit: Mr. Joseph Penna

As far as the growth of produce is concerned, the garden is using a hydroponic system developed by Mr. Sanders to grow things such as lettuce, herbs, and mixed greens year-round. This method uses nutrient-rich water for growth in place of soil, with the plants' roots supported by some sort of solid medium, such as peat moss.

The hydroponic system has already proven to be beneficial to the school's kitchen staff. Food Service Director Mr. Joseph Penna reflected on his experience with the system, "Mr. Goodman and Mr. Sanders have a really great setup outside in their greenhouse. When they showed me it, I was truly amazed," Penna said. "They asked me if we would be interested in using some of the lettuce that they had been growing in their greenhouse. I jumped at the opportunity to use PV's very own homegrown lettuce. I know, moving forward, we are going to continue to partner with Mr. Goodman and Mr. Sanders to bring in fresh produce to enhance our program and that our student body can be proud of."

The integration of school-grown produce is still in the early stages, but Goodman and Sanders plan on expanding the project throughout the year. "We harvested a huge amount of lettuce grown hydroponically and were able to give it to the staff in the kitchen to use for the teachers' lunches," said Goodman. "We have only been able to do this once so far, but are looking forward to doing this more frequently and in higher volume in the future."

The Unity Garden doesn't only hope to provide produce for school use - they also actively compost food waste from the cafeteria using their compartmentalized composting bins. Each day, compost bins are filled by the lunchroom staff with food scraps and waste, rather than simply putting them in the garbage. The waste is then brought to the composting bins in the garden.

"It's worked really nicely, as the folks in the cafeteria have developed a connection to the garden in this way," Mr. Goodman commented. "We get at least one full bin of compost from the lunchroom every day. It also provides a great extra credit opportunity for my students if they choose to bring the compost from the lunchroom to the garden."

In a time whUnity Garden's hydroponic setup; photo credit: Kylie Tedeschi ere environmental awareness is essential, the Unity Garden spreads awareness by example. The growth of produce on campus particularly inspires because it shows high school students that there are increasing opportunities for people to grow their own food in a way that is free of pesticides, more environmentally conscious, and more accessible for a lower price. The use of compost bins on school grounds also shows students that there are plenty of ways to contribute their efforts for more conscious waste disposal.