West Amory Elementary School teacher Tiffany Herndon, right, coaches Lola Noy, Jaycee McKinney and Memphis Byars as they begin the first harvest of salad greens grown at the school to be washed, cut and assembled into salads in time for lunch later that day.

AMORY – Amory School District Food Service Director Steve Stockton got a tip from a former student that has grown into an interesting project for West Amory Elementary School students.

“Amory graduate Jill Miley Stevens introduced me to the idea of tower gardening. It was a perfect fit for the kids. It’s a great hands-on lesson,” he said.

Under the guidance of instructor Tiffany Herndon, students are growing several varieties of greens, including butter lettuce, kale, basil and rainbow chard. Students recently harvested the first crop of greens to be served in salads during lunch later that day.

“What we grow, we eat,” Herndon said.

Tower gardening is based on hydroponics, a subset of hydroculture that dates back to the 17th century and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil.

Four towers made of hardened polyurethane stand at one end of the school’s cafeteria, each with plants sprouting at two-week intervals from the first shoots to being ready to harvest. Timers and technology keep the plants watered every 16 minutes and lighted for 12 hours at a time.

“It’s been a neat process to watch. I started the first seeds a week before school began,” Herndon said.

She is working on a grant application to get the school a small greenhouse to complement the tower gardens to keep the school’s lunch program supplied with homegrown salad greens for healthy eating.

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