Michigan Land Use Institute

Food & Farming / News & Views / Interlochen Elementary School Starts Library Hydro-Farm

Interlochen Elementary School Starts Library Hydro-Farm

Students grow herbs, greens, peas inside

Healthy Food, Farm to School, FoodCorps | December 11, 2012 | By Kirsten Gerbatsch

About FoodCorps

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy.

They do that by placing motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service. Working under the direction of local partner organizations, the program implements a three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids.  Service members:

► Teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from

► Build and tend school gardens

► Bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias

Learn more about FoodCorps


Recent Posts

Agriculture Forum: Food & Farming Network Summit shares stories

Food and Farming Network | April 17, 2015 | By Meghan McDermott

In Emmet County, a baker has found a nearby farmer to grow bread-quality wheat. Schools are serving more locally grown food. The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District is supporting teachers in farm-to-school and school-garden curriculum so that students learn reading, math and science while learning to love eating healthy food. These were just a few of the stories shared recently at the seventh annual Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network Summit....

Guest View: Wind Works in Michigan

Wind power | February 10, 2015 | By Liesl Clark

The wind industry has come a long way in Michigan. Since the passage of a comprehensive energy statute in 2008 that included Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)—10 percent renewable energy from all the state’s utilities by 2015—costs have dropped at a remarkable rate....

Taste the Local Difference to Produce Magazine with 'Traverse'

TLD | February 3, 2015 | By MyNorth

New this year, MyNorth Media, publishers of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, will produce Michigan Land Use Institute’s Taste the Local Difference as a magazine that combines the utility of the previous maps with fascinating stories and stunning photography of the Northern Michigan food scene....

Mike McHugh, of Cedar Sol Hydro Farm, teaches students at Interlochen Elementary School about hydroponic gardens. 

As we looked out the library windows of Interlochen Elementary School, two classes of second and third graders and I could see a thin, fresh blanket of snow across the school grounds. It was the end of November. The air temperature outside was freezing. The raised garden beds were white and still, and we knew nothing would grow outside for months.

But it was a different story inside the library. With the flick of a switch, we heard the steady whir of an electric motor and a whoosh of water circulating through three large hydroponic “grow systems.” These were the sounds of life: A winter indoor school garden. By noon on Tuesday, November 27th, Jill Hibbard’s 2nd grade and Rhonda Busch’s 3rd grade classes transplanted and seeded a variety of herbs, leafy greens, lettuce, and peas in their very own library window hydro-farm.

Hydroponic farmers grow plants without soil, but instead, in water with minerals mixed in that are taken up by the plants’ roots for nutrients—the H in H2O and hydro. And because this Hydro-stacker system can be placed in a school library, it means students at all grade levels at Interlochen Elementary will learn about growing food in the depths of a Michigan winter.

Farmer Mike McHugh, of Cedar Sol Hydro Farm, partnered with Interlochen teachers, my FoodCorps service member partner Daniel Marbury and me to get the hydroponic garden system in place. Mike and his wife Nichole grow outdoor hydroponic strawberries, tomatoes, herbs, and a variety of vegetables in Leelanau County.

Daniel and I are organizing garden, classroom, and cafeteria activities that get kids excited about eating fresh and locally grown food. When Mike visited their library and showed them how we can grow food without soil, the kids were wide-eyed and full of questions. They studied his every movement as he demonstrated how to plant in the Hydro-stacker containers and they asked thoughtful questions throughout the process. The kids could barely stay in their seats by the end of the demonstration; they were ready to transplant their own plants, which they had started from tiny seeds in October. In small groups, each student carefully planted a container until the four Hydro-stackers were filled.

Our garden plan is to harvest, cook with and serve the herbs, kale, lettuce, and rainbow Swiss chard in the classroom and lunchroom for tasting activities that engage the children in healthy foods education. Trying these nutritious greens also will reinforce the local, healthy foods education that Daniel and I coordinate in the cafeteria during lunchtime with the school food service staff. We hope that growing vegetables inside with a hydroponic garden will whet students’ appetites for more garden exploration at school and lead to more fresh greens on their lunch trays.

Some of the kids were so excited to taste the kale and rainbow Swiss chard they’re cultivating in the Hydro-stackers that they asked if they could eat their seedlings on planting day! But we decided it would be best to let the plants grow even bigger so we can share a really big harvest in December.

Needless to say, everyone is looking forward to our first harvest this winter! And we expect it will get everyone excited about revitalizing the outside school garden come spring, when the green returns and the sounds of chickadees and bluejays—and maybe a sprinkler—fill the air.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Mike McHugh, of Cedar Sol Farm, for his guidance and support on this school garden project, as well as to the dedicated teachers and staff at Interlochen Elemenentary who encourage school gardens and healthy food education for our students!

No Comments

Search Archives

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org