Beginning Spring of 2016
This is a multifaceted project that began with WNFA funding an aquaponics system at the Poynette High School (PHS). Aquaponics is the combination of Aquaculture, raising fish as a food crop, and Hydroponics, growing plants in an aquatic environment. The waste from the fish, in this case Tilapia, provides the nutrients for the plants, in this case food crops which will be used by the school cafeteria to demonstrate how truly local food production can be.
During the spring of 2016, the Ag Education Department’s Business Ag class began planning the Outdoor Classroom. The first step was to take the students to the MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) Organic Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin. This is the world’s largest organic farming conference. This conference provides exposure to hundreds of different ways to make a good living in agriculture without going deeply into debt by using sustainable farming practices. WNFA’s sponsorship of the PHS student’s admission to the conference will be an annual program.
The Outdoor Classroom has been designed to include two separate aspects. The first is to plant perennial crops such as chestnuts, hazelnuts, fruit trees, berries, asparagus, etc. The planting design is roughly based on Mark Shepard’s book, Restoration Agriculture, where he has taken an 80 acre grain farm, highly dependent on chemical inputs, and converted it to perennial crops thriving on only organic inputs. The crops are planted in berms following the contour of the land to maximize available rainfall, eliminating the need for irrigation. The second part of this classroom will be annual vegetable crops, equally divided between organic production techniques and conventional techniques. The idea is that a long term study, similar to what the Rodale Institute has done, can be a part of the PHS Ag curriculum. The produce from this endeavor will be either fed into the cafeteria for lunch use or processed into value added products such as jams, preserves, jellies by the Family Living class that can be sold through the FFA fundraising sale.