Farm to fork offers fresh greens to GINW cafeteria

    Grand Island Northwest tower garden farm provides fresh greens for the school (NTV News)

    Farm to fork takes new meaning, with the freshest school lunch imaginable at Grand Island Northwest.

    “We got lettuce, onions, cucumbers, everything,” Macy Zigler and Kam Stoppkotte rattled off the things growing in the school greenhouse.

    Everything you'd need for a nice salad is growing in what might be the farm of the future.

    “It is soil-less. There's no soil in these tower gardens, so it's a new way of farming,” said ag instructor Jessica Brondel.

    It's hydroponic, meaning these leafy greens grow in water filled with nutrients.

    “It just pumps to all these, three minutes on, three minutes off,” Kam Stoppkotte explained.

    Many Nebraska schools are adding these towers to their greenhouses as a teaching tool to talk about sustainable agriculture.

    Several schools now have them, but Grand Island Northwest may be the first in the state with what it considers a whole farm of tower gardens.

    Brondel said, “We're able to produce 432 plants in about six weeks, so it is fast growing, fast producing, so they are able to see the end product fairly quickly.”

    And they're able to taste the fruits of their labor.

    Senior Macy Zigler said, “Once we harvest it, which we'll harvest this tower today, we'll sell it to our school kitchen for lunch every day.”

    And Mrs. Brondel doesn’t mind if kids get hands on.

    “Snag a piece of lettuce and see how it tastes, like it actually fresh lettuce does taste fairly well,” she said.

    It's not bad but a common refrain – needs some ranch.

    The kids take pride in their work.

    Brondel said, “The kids are able to plant, grow, harvest, and then consume their own product. Especially in a school system like this, everybody's able to get fresh produce where they know where it came from and how it was raised.”

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