Student agriculture expanding in north Georgia - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Student agriculture expanding in north Georgia

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Students at Ridgeland High School in Rossville, Georgia eat their own lettuce. They've been growing it using what's called a hydroponic system they designed, from business proposal to the engineering.

"They had to come up with the bid. They had to present their bid to us for us to justify spending the money," explains science teacher Justin Carruth.

It's part of the school's STEM program--Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.

The hydroponic system uses no soil or extra chemicals, just water and fertilizer. So this lettuce is as close to organic as you can get without it being certified.

About 120 students are involved and Carruth says they not only learn science but sharpen their life skills, too, like problem solving and team work.

"Communications skills. All the soft skills within these projects are constantly being used," says Carruth.

They're even taking this local project to a global scale, designing systems to send to Haiti where many people struggle with natural resources and farming.

The up front money came from sales of fish from their aquaponics farm next door. To maintain the lettuce garden they started selling it in front of Whole Foods in Chattanooga last month. More sales are planned in order to keep the project going.

"They allowed us to sell it and we made some good money off it," adds Carruth. He says they made a few hundred dollars, selling the heads for only $1.50 each.

This has been sophomore Shalyn Landes' favorite part so far.

"It teaches you more than just planting lettuce and growing lettuce," says Landes. "It's business skills and how to sell and make a profit on things."

Dakota McGraw, also a sophomore, likes working alongside his classmates.

"Coming together and helping the community as we work as a team to work on our food," says McGraw.

They've been selling their three varieties of lettuce--butter head, revolution, and cedar--to local restaurants and farm stands, too.

Carruth is very happy with the students' progress, hard work, and positive attitudes.

"Oh, so proud of them! Tremendous pride," says Carruth.

They want to supply the school's cafeteria with some of the lettuce, but have to jump through a few more hoops before this can happen. They also plan to add 10 more varieties in the spring.
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