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Grow Stand Teaches Students How To Grow Their Own Food

Persell Middle School fifth graders Kaprice Walker, Mariel Arnone, Ivy Tonon, and Madison Kurtz pose with their “winnings” of fresh lettuce, grown on a hydroponic farm stand located in Annika Putney’s classroom lovingly nicknamed “Flora.”

As the week comes to an end, the moment that students on Persell Middle School’s Blue Team have waited for has finally arrived: the “Lettuce Lottery.”

Yes, you read that correctly: lettuce.

The source?

A hydroponic lettuce grow farm stand — lovingly nicknamed “Flora” — located in Annika Putney’s room that was donated to the Persell Garden Club earlier this school year as part of a WholeFoods WholeKids grant.

“‘Flora’ came to us in the fall and they sent us the seedlings, too,” Putney said. “Our PTA then donated lights so that we could be able to grow from seed year round.”

In addition to lettuce, the stand, maintained by the Garden Club and other helpers from across the building, grows swiss chard, kale, strawberries, parsley, basil, and green onions — and Persell students can’t get enough.

“It’s been such a cool experience to see the kids be able to grow year round,” Putney said. “The stand has grown so much lettuce and everybody wanted it so I started to make some bags to go home with students on our team.”

The demand is what led to the creation of the “Lettuce Lottery.”

Students are chosen at random using a small spinning wheel to take home bags of fresh lettuce to enjoy with their families.

“Teachers will laugh and say, ‘What are you passing out candy, Putney?'” she noted. “The kids get that excited about the lettuce and it’s different from what they’ve likely had before because it doesn’t have chemicals or preservatives. It’s in its natural state and they are amazed by that.”

The hydroponic process of growing — meaning that it’s grown from water-based nutrient solution rather than soil — is also a great learning experience.

“They learned about hydroponic growing in fifth grade science and it’s an incredible way to see it in action,” Putney noted. “You can see the roots and see how it grows without soil. It’s also a great conservation of resources. We don’t use very much water. It just keeps cycling the water through, so it’s even easier to take care of.”

“Flora,” very quickly, has become a friend to all in the Persell fifth-grade wing.

“I help plant some of the seeds that are in Flora,” said Lyla Stronz. “My favorite part of watching it grow is seeing all the color that blooms.”

“I have gotten lettuce from Flora and little baby tomatoes and all of it is really good,” said Mariel Arnone. “It’s exciting to see it all get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

“I’m in garden club and my favorite part of it is how fast it grows and the food that grows out of it is delicious,” said Ella Rohlin.

“I love to see it grow and sometimes I get lettuce and tomatoes from there,” said Kira Downey. “But I like watching them grow and eating them because they are delicious.”

For Putney, seeing the students take such an interest has been heartwarming.

“The kids are amazed at just by the fact that they can grow their own food,” added Putney. “The biggest thing is for them to see: we can grow this. And it doesn’t take anything. You can do it. It started with a seed and now it can feed us.”

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