First hydroponic lettuce harvested for school lunch program at Sparta High School

Students at Sparta High School were served lettuce Wednesday that was grown down the hall in the school’s greenhouse.

The first crop of hydroponic lettuce was harvested at 9:30 a.m. – just in time to be prepared for the student’s first lunch at 11:05 a.m.

“This is so exciting to have kids producing hydroponic lettuce that we can use in the cafeteria that we can use for our high school students,” said Cindy Thesing, nutrition services supervisor. “This is a fantastic opportunity for all of the kids involved in this new growing venture.”

The equipment was purchased through a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact grant the school district received with Tomah and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts. Efforts have focused on increasing farm to school efforts and bringing local produce to the students meal trays. The hydroponic equipment will allow continued local produce during the academic school years when school gardens are not in production.

“Our students have really bought into this idea of growing food for our cafeteria. This is one of the things that the students are constantly pacing back to check out,” said Sparta High School Agriculture Teacher Eric Follendorf. “Every week they make comments about how much it has grown since the previous day.”





Monroe County Schools on the Go Celebrates Farm to School Month

Monroe County Schools on the Go is celebrating October as Farm to School month with student taste tests, farmer visits to schools and a community and school gardening workshop. 

Students are tasting roasted squash, potatoes and carrots; apple salad; local watermelon, and dried cranberry cherry craisins, among other items. 

Farmer Jake Wedeberg who works on his family’s century farm near Gays Mills, Wis., presented at schools in the three coalition districts Oct. 22 and 24. The farm has been certified organic for 22 years and he and his brother are proud and excited to be fifth generation organic farmers. 

Wedeberg’s interactive presentation included cow milking, a bean bag toss, butter making and taste testing. At Lakeview Elementary in Sparta, he was joined by Farm to School Chef Jason Boris and Community Health Education Specialist Jess Shown for additional taste tests and activities. 

The presentation and taste tastings are part of the coalition’s efforts to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in Monroe County. Through a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact grant,  Monroe County Schools on the go is working to create a sustainable food system by developing and implementing a strong farm to school effort in the Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts.

The school and community garden workshop Oct. 24 at the Barney Center in Sparta was well attended. Beth Hanna from Community GroundWorks led the session and provided insight into the best practices for school and community gardening.Image