Middle school students in Monmouth County learn about sustainable food growth

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The Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF) has awarded four Monmouth County middle schools with grants through the Sustainable Gardens in the Classroom Program.

The four schools chosen to receive a grant to participate in the program for the 2019-20 school year are Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Neptune City; Long Branch Middle School, Long Branch; Markham Place Middle School, Little Silver; and Memorial Middle School, Eatontown.

The Sustainable Gardens in the Classroom Program educates middle school students about sustainable agriculture, natural resource use, nutrition and how these issues relate to MCF’s core mission of land conservation, according to a press release.

The program focuses on the critical role that land preservation plays in mitigating climate change. The program grants a Tower Garden by the Juice Plus Company, which is an aeroponic growing unit that allows for indoor growing year round in the classroom, according to the press release.

Aeroponics is defined as the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.

The aeroponic growing experience allows students to apply traditional plant growth lesson plans with an interactive twist that drives at the importance of sustainable agriculture techniques and natural resource management as the climate changes, according to the press release.

“The program gets students thinking about important issues like how we can conserve water and where our food comes from,” said William D. Kastning, MCF Executive Director.

MCF has been preserving land for 42 years. MCF has witnessed the trend to alternative growing methods like aeroponics and aquaponics on farms across the area, according to the press release.

These methods use less water and are typically done indoors to help farmers from the impacts of the changing climate.

The program helps students learn about some farms the area and why alternative growing methods are important to the environment. Student will also grow their own organic food in the classroom, according to the press release.

After an educator received the Tower Garden for their classroom, MCF provided teacher training to empower educators on growing indoors, MCF provides STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) lesson plans and demonstrates how to bring interactive nutrition experiences into the classroom.

The training event took place at Beyond Organic Growers, a commercial aeroponic growing greenhouse and first preserved farm in Monmouth County on Oct. 24.

MCF partners with a local farmer to visit to each classroom later in the school year.

Alternative growing are becoming an increasingly common business component of rural and urban farms due to the ability to grow produce year-round and to meet increasing consumer demands for local, organic foods, according to the press release.

Because aeroponic growing makes a garden possible year-round, it enables students to learn about growing vegetables during the school year. Aeroponics allows students who do not have access to a traditional garden space a chance to participate.

Students are also shown potential career opportunities in agriculture. This is the second year MCF is hosting the Sustainable Gardens in the Classroom Program.

For more information, http://www.monmouthconservation.org/tower-gardens.