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Bibb Schools install hydroponic gardens for students to grow produce indoors

SOAR Academy students can grow vegetables and herbs year round with a new indoor garden system.

MACON, Ga. — Many Bibb County Schools have agriculture programs that use outdoor gardens, but at SOAR Academy, there isn't really enough space for one, so school leaders decided to install the district's first hydroponic gardens for students to farm inside

9th grader Z'nyiah Henderson and 10th grader Imani Ross haven't had a lot of experience gardening before.

"I know my grandma, she likes plants, so I always help her water her plants and stuff, but it's really a journey for me to start at school on something I ain't really ever did before," Henderson said.

Dalia Kinsey, a registered dietitian, says Bibb Schools' new hydroponic indoor garden units make it easy for students to learn how to grow their own produce.

"They're being watered all the time, and there is artificial sunlight being administered really consistently, so it's basically like you're growing plants in ideal conditions," Kinsey said.

Students can grow vegetables like lettuce and bok choy, or herbs like sage and cilantro, and they monitor its progress right from their phone.

"It's a smart unit, so on the app, it shows us when it's time to harvest, when it's time to fertilize, when it's time to add water," Kinsey said.

The two units cost about $300 each. 

School Nutrition Director Timikel Sharpe says students are seeing the farm to table process firsthand.

"We're teaching students where food comes from and how it's harvested and how it's used and we'll go as far as to use it in the cafeteria when it's done," Sharpe said.

Kinsey says they received the indoor garden units from a joint-partnership grant between a company, called Miracle Gro and the No Kid Hungry charity organization.

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