CANTON — Superintendent Jill Rossetti and Culinary Arts Department Lead Teacher Richard Spada are pleased to announce that Blue Hills Regional Technical School’s Culinary Arts Program has successfully implemented a terraponic indoor grow system to assist students with harvesting crops.
The Blue Hills Culinary Arts Program’s new terraponic indoor grow system is the first system of this type at Blue Hills having just arrived two months ago. Since it arrived, students have had the opportunity to plant, water and harvest crops to be used for cooking.
Currently, the program is growing spinach, dill, bibb lettuce, basil and cilantro with the terraponic indoor grow system to be used in dishes. To date, the program has already harvested two large crops of basil which was used to make a homemade pesto sauce for the “Chateau de Bleu” restaurant’s Chicken Pesto Panini dish, spinach which has been used for Spinach Artichoke Dip and bibb lettuce which has been used in catering orders.
The system uses a soil blend, consisting of potting soil with organic soil amendments, in special trays which sit in a growing rack. Every few days, students add two gallons of water to each rack and the plants soak up the water from below. Each rack has UV lights that are positioned a few inches from the top of the plant and as the plant grows, the lights are adjusted to allow for more room. After the first few growths are finished, the soil is returned to a compost bin and more soil amendments will be added so that the soil can be recycled for future harvesting use.
The program provides invaluable education on the process and importance of farming which in turn gives students a greater appreciation for where their food comes from.
“Implementing the terraponic indoor grow system into our Culinary Arts program is the latest step we have taken to introduce farming education into our curriculum,” Spada said. “In the past, we have taken field trips to a local herb farm, Muddy River Herbals, to assist in the planting and harvesting process, but with our own growing system we can now streamline the harvesting process and enhance our farm-to-table efforts.”
Following the initial planting phase, the system is fairly hands-off between the initial phase and harvesting with students only needing to add water every few days with increasing regularity as the plants get larger and require more water. The system’s UV lights are on a timer and turn on automatically every morning at 7 a.m. and remain on for 15-hour intervals. The only variable that changes occasionally is the humidity of the room, which can also affect the frequency of watering.
The terraponic indoor grow system was purchased with the use of grant funds from the Rachael Ray Foundation Grow Grant program. The grant program provided 27 schools in America funds to expand their culinary programs this year. Blue Hills’ application included written testimonials from Spada and students describing how the growing system would benefit the program. To learn more about the grant, click here.
“Thanks to the grant funds provided through the Rachael Ray Foundation Grow Grant program, our culinary arts program has had the opportunity to purchase the growing system to assist in sustainably growing crops used in our school’s restaurant, which in turn has assisted us teaching our students about the importance of harvesting,” said Superintendent Rossetti.