CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Students at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center will have something new for lunch this year – students will now have farm fresh, organic vegetables as a part of their school lunches, and it’s all growing right outside their classrooms.
The garden started as a discussion in Mr. Cycyk’s English class. The students had to research food, develop a plan and then go to the board and ask for the land to plant.
“I wanted to teach them how to research in a way that doesn’t end with a paper that gets thrown in the trash,” Cycyk said.
The first part of the project was looking into the ingredients of some foods that students were eating. Cycyk would bring in food such as pizza and then have the students look into what ingredients were in it.
“He would show us the side of it (box) and there would be a word that literally had to be disconnected because it is so big you have no idea how to pronounce it, and you have no idea what’s in it,” said Bryce Richendollar, MCCTC senior.
Students decided right away that they wanted to grow their food chemical-free. Next, they had to get approval from the board to use an acre and a half of school land for the farm – another lesson learned.
“What a perfect opportunity to use your communication skills that we work on every day in the classroom in front of a real audience with a real result in the end,” Cycyk
The garden is producing pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers and cantaloupe. The students expect to produce one ton of produce before the growing season is over.
Not everything planted at the farm was a success, but that is leading to a learning opportunity. For instance, potatoes turned out to be a challenge, but students will return to the classroom and research what didn’t go quite right and figure out why.
The student-run farm is looking to get other programs at MCCTC involved. Cycyk said he plans to incorporate other disciplines such as welding, engineering and advanced manufacturing to help with improvement projects such as a hoop house that will help to extend the growing season.
While the farm has produced fresh produce for the school, it has also cultivated inspiration for students to take what they’ve learned and apply it to their life.
“If five years, I didn’t know what I was going to be but now I know that I have the ability to bring something from nothing to life. It changes your perspective on everything, really,” Richendollar said.
Right now the produce is being served in the cafeteria and any student is able to take food home to their families. The goal is eventually to grow enough that they can share with the community.