Clinton Culinary students introduce hydroponic gardening to the new school year
Two days into the 2021-2022 school year, students in Clinton High School’s Culinary Arts program have already begun implementing a new aspect into their education—hydroponic gardening towers.
Culinary Arts instructor Chef Catherine Bruce used money awarded to her program from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation School Garden Program to purchase four state-of-the-art hydroponic Farmstand from Lettuce Grow as well as an assortment of seeds.
“Each tower holds 36 plants which have been sent to us by Lettuce Grow to get us started, but in the future, we’ll be able to use our own seedlings from seeds purchased from Johnny’s Seeds, a nationally known seed company,” Chef Bruce said.
Culinary students will grow edible flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables and various types of lettuces.
“We’ll use what we grow in our own hydroponic garden during instructional time as well as when we prepare food to serve our teachers and staff,” Chef Bruce said. “But we’ll also be able to use what we grow in class at farmer’s markets throughout the year.”
Money from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation School Garden Program is allowing Chef Bruce to expose her students to changing trends in the profession while also allowing Clinton students to exceed the state’s Career and Technical Education standards, growing themselves academically and professionally.
“Hydroponic gardening is one of our curriculum standards,” Chef Bruce said, “so I wanted them to see what hydroponic gardening looks like. Also, it’s important for us to get an understanding of farm-to-table cooking, knowing where their food comes from and how the entire process works, from seedlings all the way to composting.”
She said by exposing her students to the simplicity of these hydroponic towers, her students can explore the variety of produce that can be grown in their own classroom.
Senior Blair Hearn said she’s learned how to put into action something so simple that can help not only a kitchen staff but an entire community.
“I’ve always loved gardening,” Hearn said, “so knowing how important hydroponic gardening can be in the kitchen as well as for the environment makes it even better. What we will have is truly home-grown food.”
Chef Bruce said the lessons learned from this addition will go beyond learning how to be part of a kitchen staff. “This is helping them to understand the cost effectiveness of growing your own vegetables as well as implementing good eating habits at an early age. For the remainder of their lives, they’ll know exactly how to plant, harvest and prepare quality healthy food for themselves, their families and maybe even their own kitchens one day.”