Ethan Daniels picked tomatoes Friday at the CCHS greenhouse. The students are using a new growing system called hydroponics to grow the tomatoes and are selling them to raise money for the Future Farmers of America Club. The FFA is selling the tomatoes for $2 per pound and will be selling them for the remainder of the summer.
Garden and tomatoes…
Just before spring break of the previous school year, several students in Agriculture class and teacher Matt Johnson were preparing pots for tomatoes.
This year, the classes used a rather new form of growing the plants called hydroponics.
Three months later the Future Farmers of America spent the morning in the greenhouse, harvesting their first round of tomatoes and packaging them to sell.
Johnson said the group of nine or so students picked more than 120 pounds of tomatoes Friday and sold out Saturday morning.
During the summer and fall months, the tomatoes will provide funding for the FFA in order to pay for field trips and summer camping the group participates in. With school being out for the summer, students are selling the tomatoes road-side, usually at the Mountain View Park, but when schools get back in session during the early fall, the tomatoes will be sold to the schools in order to cut costs to the kitchens.
“The fall and the spring will be the big times for them,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a busy summer. As soon as we get these, we will probably have more on Tuesday.”
Johnson said he is selling the tomatoes for two dollars per pound and he was worried he wouldn’t sell all he had to pick, but in an email, Johnson said they sold everything they had Friday and Saturday.
In the greenhouse, plants have grown to almost seven feet tall and should produce tomatoes for the next few months.
Johnson said the project first came up when former Superintendent Micky McFall held the position.
“I was going to write a grant for it, but the stipulations for the grant were going to be too stringent for what we wanted to do,” Johnson said. “The minimum for the grant was $20,000 and I researched it and went to the board and told them, ‘I think we can do what we need to do for $5,000,” Johnson said. “The tomatoes produced during the school year will be bought by the schools. In the State of Kentucky they will get a 20 percent rebate for buying a Kentucky Proud product.”
The ag department is a Kentucky Proud Producer. There are several Kentucky Proud Producers in the county.
The plants are watered automatically and with the fertilizer already mixed in with the water, it is almost self sustaining.
Johnson said the only things they’ve had to do has been prune the plants, pick the tomatoes and keep an eye out for bugs.
So far, bugs haven’t been an issue inside the greenhouse, allowing the plants to receive 100 percent of the nutrients it needs to produce fruit.
“I’ve only sprayed the ground twice,” Johnson said. “We had a problem with gnats earlier, but I think they were more interested in the flowers we had.”
On his own – Young Jared Grant enjoying the summer as he learns to garden
Along the same lines as what the high school students are doing, one younger child is becoming a student on his own and he has decided to grow his own garden this summer to help provide for his family.
“I just wanted to help my grandparents,” Jared Grant said. “Get out of the house and work … I enjoy it.”
Jared, 12, has already spent most of his summer vacation in his 13 foot by 30 foot garden and unlike most kids his age, his parents, Chad and Lora, have to pry him out of his garden.
“They have to make him come in sometimes,” Jared’s grandfather, retired minister Bobby Grant said.
Grant has been there to aid Jared in manyways, however, Grant said Jared has done all the work himself.
In Jared’s small garden behind his house, he has cucumbers, squash, radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, zucchini, corn, beans, potatoes and three different kinds of peppers including, bell, cayenne and banana peppers.
“His mother likes green onions and he has already pulled up some on this side,” Bobby Grant said. “He can learn an art here that can last him the rest of his life. My dad’s mother and father, my grandparents, went to the grocery no more than twice a month and that was for basic necessities. They raised everything. They had a huge garden. There isn’t anything better than green beans, fried potatoes and cornbread.”
Jared said he spends around two or three hours per day tending to his garden and he said it was a good feeling to know that he can grow a garden.
“He’d spend all day if they would let him,” Grant said.