With warmer weather approaching, what better way to cool off and be healthy than with a refreshing salad? The students in the Culinary Arts program are practicing their salad and dressing-making techniques—but not without the help of the Horticulture program!

Through their hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic growing systems, the students in Malena Perry’s program are practicing sustainable agriculture, and the results are delicious! They have grown lettuce, kale, peppers, cucumbers, various herbs, and many more types of produce; when the plants are ripe, they provide some of the spoils to the Culinary Arts program, where they are turned into ingredients.

“We start growing new seeds while the others are still saplings so that we keep a rotation, and it takes about two and a half months for a crop to mature from seed to plant,” said Mrs. Perry.

Utilizing plants grown in-house drastically reduces the carbon footprint generated by having produce shipped, often times from across the country. Even better: The produce is fresher and of a higher quality!

“It’s kind of hard at the beginning to set it up and get it working,” said Grant, a student in Mrs. Perry’s class, “but once you get the minerals and nutrients in place the plants grow pretty quickly—and it’s great knowing that others in the building can get use out of them!”

Each of the three systems used in Horticulture and Landscaping are sustainable, green crop growing systems. So while the students in Mrs. Perry’s class are learning how to care for the environment, the students in Chef McGrath’s program are learning how wonderful it is to work with produce that’s as fresh as it could possibly get:

“I think you can trust the produce [from Horticulture] better than what you get from a supplier because you know who grew it and can just go talk to them if you have questions or a problem,” said Hailey, a Culinary Arts student. “It’s fresher because it was grown here.”

So far, the students have mostly used lettuce grown by their peers, but they have also enjoyed working with herbs, Concord grapes, and a few other crops. It’s a practice that both programs hope to continue and expand upon in the years to come!