School Business Affairs October 2020

20 OCTOBER 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS “Kids today don’t understand where food comes from,”Adesso says. “But I knew we could find a solution that would open their minds.” Adesso researched indoor gar- dening across the country and con- cluded that an indoor hydroponic farm was the best and most reliable solution. However, the solution had to fit the district with regard to capital outlay, return on invest- ment, space requirements, and overall efficiency. He was surprised to find the solution in his backyard: an agriculture technology company headquartered 20 minutes away that allows people and communi- ties to participate in the fresh, local food movement. The company’s portable Flex Farm indoor hydroponic gardening system can hold 288 plants, requires a standard electrical outlet and less than 10 square feet of space, and can produce 20 pounds of produce every 28 days. Growing Local MJSD’s food service had purchased greens from a national food sup- plier—greens that were grown in Arizona, trucked to a regional dis- tribution center in the Midwest, and then trucked again to the school. By the time the bagged greens arrived, they had a shelf life of only a few days. The prospect of fresh greens year-round was mouthwatering. “These systems are used for four- star restaurants and I thought it was a good idea to bring the concept into a low socioeconomic popula- tion,” explains Adesso. “These kids could have the same experience as a diner in a fine restaurant has.”And the cost is less than $1 per pound with an easy-to-use low-mainte- nance system. Initially, Adesso wanted to go big and establish several Flex Farms systems throughout the district, but budget constraints allowed him to start with just four, which would Top and middle: Lettuce and nasturium grown hydroponically in the school’s Flex Farm indoor gardening system. Nasturiums blossoms are edible and can add a peppery bite to salads. Below: Healthy lettuce roots. Students who are able to see the growth cycle of the produce grown and consumed within their school system tend to be more enthusiastic about eating their veggies.