For the City Times
Submitted by Sarah Salewski, Health Promotion and Communications Specialist, Wood County Health Department
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Welcome the Green Machine!
Farm to School in Wood County has been making big advancements towards sustainability this year and one notable step forward is the installation of the Green Machine in Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids.
The Green Machine is a hydroponic growing system that is 4x4x3.5ft and requires only one hour’s worth of maintenance over the course of a week. The Green Machine is an innovative way for the Wisconsin Rapids Public School district to cut down barriers to local food procurement such as, aggregation, distribution, and of course Wisconsin’s long winters. The Green Machine is capable of growing many types of produce, from lettuce and other leafy greens, to green onions and strawberries.
The Green Machine engages students in the process from start to finish; from growing their own food to consuming it in the lunch line. The Green Machine was recently installed and is housed in the classroom of Jeremy Radtke, Technology and Agriculture educator at Lincoln High School. Plants in the Green Machine grow in water, they do not required dirt. Jeremy and his students started seeds in special Rockwell cubes that were then grown under a grow light and are now big enough to be placed in the Green Machine. Students inserted the plant starts into the machine Thursday, April 19 with the help of the AmeriCorps Farm to School Program Members and Mayor Zack Vruwink.
The Green Machine is expected to grow an average of 400 pounds of produce throughout a year cycle. Students will plant, harvest and process the produce for food service to purchase. The produce will be purchased by Elizabeth Severson, Food Service Director, and added to the schools lunch program. The revenue from food service purchases will be used to create scholarships for students in the ag program as well as purchase seeds and maintenance materials for the machine.
The Green Machine was design by Alex Tyink and Fork Farms in Menasha, WI. Healthy People Wood County (HPWC) Recreate Health team, in collaboration with Wisconsin Rapids Public School Food Service, first sought out the Green Machine in 2016. HPWC Recreate Health has partnered with the Wisconsin Rapids Public School district to bring more local foods to students since the formalization of Farm to School in 2011. The Green Machine system is supported by grant funds through Incourage.
To watch the Green Machine’s progress and to find out more about the agriculture program, visit the “LHS AG PAGE” on Facebook.
You can visit the Healthy People of Wood County Facebook page here.