New hydroponics system at Gering High School

Adam Flowers, Staff Reporter

 In an effort to create a sustainable and efficient way to grow fresh produce, a hydroponic system has been implemented at Gering High School.

   Food services director Mary Carman has been working in conjunction with Gering’s food service program, Taher, to get a hydroponics system.

   “We wanted to get kids involved in the whole idea and science behind raising greens and other things if it comes up to be that way.” Carman said. She also suggested the idea of having a greenhouse to grow food.

   A hydroponics system uses only water to grow plants. At the base of the system, there is a tank of water and simple pump that pumps water towards the top. The water then trickles back down to the bottom to grow these plants.

   “You can grow food a lot quicker. Five weeks to grow lettuce, for instance,” Carman said. “If you had to plant it in the ground, it would take a summer or half a summer, so that’s one of the beautiful things about hydroponics. Secondly, you can use and repurpose that same seed. Finally, there are no chemicals involved.”

   This unit in particular can grow 288 plants at one time, and it uses little space and minimal water. There are also other systems at the elementary schools, so fifth grade students get the opportunity to grow herbs.

   Science teacher Jennifer Dillinger got the opportunity to have the hydroponics system in her classroom.

   Recently, she and her Chemistry II students got to take part in the first lettuce harvest. Senior Victoria Brady thought harvesting was a really cool and interesting process.

   “Usually what you’ll do is you’ll go an inch up from the base of the lettuce and then you’ll cut off the head of the lettuce,” Brady said. and “It just regrows over and over and it usually takes about a month.” The harvesting process itself takes about ten minutes.

   Chef Tim McLaughlin explained that he uses the foods that are grown from hydroponics system in the school lunches.

   “The first batch of lettuce we used to make a gourmet salad toss,” McLaughlin said. “It fed over a hundred students.” 

   The food staff also intends on growing other foods in the future, like strawberries and swiss chard.

   Aside from Chemistry II, Dillinger also teaches environmental science. She said that one of the things her and her students talk about in environmental science is sustainability.

   “Specifically, sustainability tied to human population growth, so as human population continues to increase, we start to have issues providing food for those people,” Dillinger said. “Sometimes, that’s like logistics in that we don’t have enough food, sometimes it’s just that we’re not distributing the food well, but looking at different ways to provide food for people is something that’s going to be important as the population continues to climb.”