The Smithville ACE program has joined the SISD gardening family with the addition an indoor aeroponic gardening system to grow and harvest fresh vegetables.
When Dell Children’s Hospital donated a tower to the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Director of Club Operations for Boys and Girls Club of the Austin Area Leo Santana knew that Smithville ACE would be a good fit for the tower. ACE Site Coordinator Steve Schroeder said that the program would love to have the tower and incorporate it into the program. “Because of my own lack of gardening knowledge, I knew I would be relying greatly on Mr. (Richard) Lowery’s expertise,” Mr. Schroeder said. “At first, he was reluctant until he saw the unit and read about it.”
Mr. Lowery said, “I did not want one more garden to care for but this is the real deal.”
The Tower Garden by Juice Plus grows the plants in rock-wool which eliminates the need for soil while providing consistent moisture to the plants. And, because it is indoors in a controlled environment is it not susceptible to weather or attack by bugs.
“We started our first round of growing in late October and had our first harvest in early December.”, Mr. Schroeder said. “We wanted to start easy so we grew lettuce and kale. I am hoping for tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro soon so we can have fresh pico de gallo but I will defer to Mr. Lowery’s wisdom for plant selection.”
With the tower located in the SISD Main Cafeteria, elementary and junior high students pass it each day as the stand in line for their lunches. “That’s the part that is most exciting to me. SISD students have long enjoyed produce grown on the grounds. But, with this tower, they can now walk by it each day and see it growing, knowing that this food will eventually make it to their lunches.”
Smithville ISD Food and Nutrition Director Candy Biehle said she wants to get three more so there can be one at the high school, one at the primary school, and additional one at the elementary/junior high cafeteria. “I want to put [the produce] in the salads and put a big sign up that talks about it.”
Schroeder said, “At ACE we like to give kids the chance to have experiences they might not otherwise have. Thanks to Dell Children’s contribution our kids have the chance to see yet another way that they can grow their own food.”