EPIC Students Harvest Produce for GraceFull Cafe

Students in the Principles of Plant Science class in the Natural Resources Pathway at EPIC Campus showcased their commitment to community service and sustainable agriculture as they harvested six large bins totaling roughly 30 pounds of Swiss chard and sorrel from their state-of-the-art hydroponic farm. 

The EPIC Campus hydroponic farm, purchased from FarmBox Foods with voter-approved bond dollars, provides students with hands-on experience in modern, sustainable farming techniques. Under the guidance of dedicated educators like Mr. Mike Montgomery and two parent volunteers who are certified master gardeners, students have cultivated vibrant crops of various plants this year, emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices in agriculture.

The hydroponic farm is truly amazing! It pulls in fresh, outside air continuously via a fan near the door. There are circulation fans that are also running full-time to ensure a constant flow of fresh air throughout the whole facility. Full-spectrum UV lights are managed by a control panel to simulate day and night, and the control panel is also programmed to oversee the distribution of water and nutrients to the plants.

Students participate in every aspect of hydroponic farming: learning about the watering and nutrients required by different plants, overseeing the control panel’s programming, seeding and transplanting, and harvesting and weighing. They clean the equipment and the tubes the plants grow in after each harvest, they engage in proper practices for harvesting food, and they learn about composting (and shout-out to the Construction Trades Pathway, whose students will be building a compost bin for the Natural Resources Pathway).

In the spirit of giving back, the students donated their harvest to GraceFull Cafe, a local non-profit organization dedicated to serving wholesome meals to individuals and families facing food insecurity. Their mission goes beyond providing nourishment; they create a welcoming space where everyone can feel a sense of belonging and community. Students who were present for the delivery were engaged in meaningful conversation with Megan, GraceFull’s assistant manager. Students were interested in GraceFull’s mission as well as volunteer opportunities. Megan was also interested in asking the students about the work they did on growing the produce.  

The donated Swiss chard and sorrel will be used in GraceFull Cafe's nutritious meals, furthering the organization's commitment to promoting healthy eating among those they serve. Any produce they are unable to use before it goes bad will be given to community individuals in need, as sometimes it is difficult for them to procure fresh produce.

Other harvests of greens from EPIC's hydroponic farm are also used in LPS schools as part of the nutrition services menu.

These sorts of meaningful and authentic experiences in educating students are part of what make EPIC Campus and LPS such a great place to be for students, staff, and the community.