Lake Geneva school grows food for lunch program

Gloria Hafemeister
Now Media Group


One of the highlights of Farm Technology Days was the tour of the Snudden's dairy facilities, including the parlor, 1,700-cow dairy barn and 1,500-animal heifer barn.

The farm also includes a sand separation system that allows them to reuse the sand in the beds.

While farms like the Snuddens' use manure to fertilize the land that is used to raise the feed for their animals who produce milk, making it a sustainable system, there are smaller-scale farming systems that also use a complete cycle — like agricultural students at Badger High School in Lake Geneva, who were at the show to demonstrate what they have been doing in their classrooms for several years now.

They demonstrated hydroponics and aeroponics systems that they say offer the ability to grow plants anywhere, even in the city.

Hydroponics use only 5 percent of the water needed for traditional agriculture. Water in hydroponics systems continuously flows around roots and gets recycled.

Aeroponics systems squirt water at the roots, but both systems are used by the ag students at Badger High School to raise the lettuce and tomatoes needed for their school's lunch program.

Students from Badger High School demonstrated their growing skills at Farm Technology Days, where visitors could see the lettuce growing in small containers.

Bryn Rohde, vice president of Badger FFA, didn't grow up on a farm, but she said she got excited about the opportunities to find other ways to raise healthy foods, even on the roof tops of high rise apartments in the city.

'When I got involved with these agriculture classes, I made a whole group of new friends that are now like my family,' she said. 'I love the agricultural aspect, and I've found there are ways that someone who doesn't live on a farm can still raise food.'

Rohde explained that aeroponics is a little different than aquaponics because with this system, the roots are never submerged in water.

She simply plants the lettuce seed in the material that starts out as a bunch of warm rocks, which are spun like cotton candy and then soaked with water and plant food.

Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. Unlike hydroponics, which uses a liquid nutrient solution as a growing medium and essential minerals to sustain plant growth, or aquaponics, which uses water and fish waste, aeroponics is conducted without a growing medium. Because water is used in aeroponics to transmit nutrients, it is sometimes considered a type of hydroponics.

At Badger, students have hydro stacking systems where they raise lettuce and strawberries.

'We'll get three to four cuttings of lettuce from each pot before it starts to taste bitter,' she said. 'Then we just replant it.'

Rohde said the entire vegetable raising project is in the hands of the ag students.

'We raised 70 pounds of lettuce last year and 40 pounds of tomatoes in our system, and they were used in our school's lunch program,' she said.

Another student, Savannah Siegler, demonstrated how to make lip gloss ouf of bees was and soybean oil. She also visited with Farm Technology Days attendees about the schools' unique ag programs.

Their entire FFA chapter was involved in the show, helping the hundreds of volunteers who helped to make the show a success.