Student farmpreneurs kick off farmers market season

Minden Elementary school third graders sit proudly in front of their hydroponics system where they have grown lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and more in their classrooms.

Minden Elementary school third graders sit proudly in front of their hydroponics system where they have grown lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and more in their classrooms.
Photo by Sarah Drinkwine.

While farmers markets are getting ready to sprout around the Carson Valley, students at Minden Elementary School and 15 other Northern Nevada schools get a head start with their hydroponics plants during the first Giant Student Farmers Market on Wednesday at Fuji Park in Carson City.

Part of a project based learning curriculum through Green Our Planet, the students used hydroponics, a technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrients solution rather than soil, to grow plants such as lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and more in their classrooms.

In addition to Minden, Meneley, Riverview, Fritsch, Empire, Huffaker elementary schools and Pau-Lu-Wa Middle School are participating.

Minden Elementary third-grader Riley Phillips said she has enjoyed using hydroponics and watching plants grow with her classmates.

“Hydroponics is now my favorite way to grow plants,” she said.  “I thought plants needed soil all the time, but in hydroponics, I found out that is not true, because how my class grew plants is we grew them in water and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Green Our Planet, based in Las Vegas and founded by filmmakers and entrepreneurs Clara Byrne and Kim McQuarrie, has a mission to “build a movement to create joy and justice in communities” by empowering students to grow food and connect through a STEM curriculum.

Green Our Planet Director of National Partnerships and Special Envoy for Northern and Rural Nevada, Woody Worthington said 46 states, over 1,020 schools, and nearly all Douglas County schools are using the Green Our Planet curriculum.

“These students have been diligently cultivating plants throughout the school year,” said Worthington.

Taking the growth to the next level, schools have become involved with Farmers Markets and even providing food for students through salad bars at lunch, filling school pantries, creating their own gardens at home and sharing them with their family, and more.

“The relevance it brings to the classroom is amazing,” said Minden Elementary School Principal Crespin Esquivel. “It’s not just here, either, some students have started their own at home. They are getting excited about what they are doing at school which is transferring out to home and then eventually and hopefully into their futures.”

The farmers market experience expands the curriculum to include marketing, sales, accounting, cash handling, and entrepreneurship.

“It’s not just about growing produce,” said Worthington, “these students are learning valuable lessons in financial literacy.”

There are two systems schools can choose to be involved in, Hydro Connect or hydroponics and Garden Connect or outdoor gardens. Green Our Planet provides all the necessary start up materials and teacher support.

Material includes 19 small, tabletop size, hydroponic units and one large 4 by 4 size unit for each school as well as a K-12 curriculum aligned with robust Nevada science standards. A virtual academy system of videos and online accommodations and one-on-one coaching is available to ensure teacher and administrator success.

On Wednesday, students will be selling their classroom grown plants and crafts during the farmers market at Fuji Park, 601 Old Clear Creek Road, Carson City. All profits are reinvested into school garden programs.

Just a Drop in Farmers Market begins 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15 and continues Wednesdays through September at Heritage Park, Gardnerville.

According to the Town of Minden, the Esmeralda Farmer’s Market has been postponed until May 21 and will continue 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sept. 24.


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