ALMONT — Pass the chips. If all goes well for the students in Mike Savage's new gardening club, they'll need a couple of bags to dip into the fresh salsa they'll make just as soon as their produce is ready.
Savage, a 7th and 8th grade science teacher, recently wrote an award winning grant for a hydroponics system that's in use right now.
Almont Middle School was one of just 24 schools across the nation to win a National Gardening Assoc-iation '2007 Hooked on Hydroponics Award' sponsored by The Grow Store in conjunction with the Progressive Gardening Trade Association.
Science teacher Mike Savage (back, right) with members of new gardening club formed after winning 2007 ‘Hooked on Hydroponics’ grant.
Savage was made aware of the grant opportunity through the school's media specialist Sarah Savage—who also happens to be his wife. He says he seized the opportunity to interest a new generation in the art and science of gardening.
"I've gotten into gardening at home and I thought it would be a fun way to spend time with kids," Savage says. "I thought it would be a good way to involve kids who aren't into sports but would like something else to do."
Savage says coupled with the community's farming roots, an opportunity to learn about alternative growing methods is an exciting prospect.
"The key is that we're growing crops without soil," Savage says of the hydroponics system. "A lot of kids responded to that right off the bat. They can see something they're familiar with in a new way."
The new gardening club has already attracted 25-30 students who take part in the activities after school.
Savage says they're excited about their project—ultimate goal to make salsa—which is already beginning to bear fruit, literally.
"The tomatoes we started are growing very well, and the peas and beans are doing great too," he says. "We just had peppers pop through the surface."
That "surface," Savage explains, is a thin layer of compost, which is needed just to anchor the plants' roots. From there, everyting is grown based on a liquid system.
As recipients of the Hooked on Hydroponics grant, the school received hydroponic growing tanks, feed and fertilizer, ultraviolent lamps and everything else required to "get growing."
The Progressive Garden-ing Trade Association's aim is to help implement progressive gardening techniques into mainstream gardening. The Grow Store supplies hydroponics equipment and expertise to consumers via an online store and retail locations ion Colorado. Visit the Web site www.thegrowstore.com for more information.