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Hidden gem: A look at Green Bay Southwest's agriculture department of the future

Local high school students are learning a modern way to grow produce
Posted at 5:41 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 18:41:48-05

GREEN BAY (NBC26) — Green Bay Southwest's science department is giving students hands-on experience with agriculture of the future.

  • Video shows Green Bay Southwest students engaging in innovative ways to grow lettuce
  • The "green room" produces around 35 pounds of lettuce for the school cafeteria every week
  • Fork Farms has been operating since 2017 and introduced hydroponic systems around the state

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Junior McKenzie Larsen said she didn't always have an interest in agriculture.

"I was like okay, yeah, lettuce, what do I do with that," Larsen said. "Eat it? It's a salad."

But after being introduced to agriculture at the start of high school, her interest eventually grew.

Larsen is part of the Urban Agriculture and Food Science class, where students learn several ways to grow produce.

Larsen said out of all the school's systems, Fork Farm is her favorite for growing lettuce.

Fork Farms are an innovative harvesting system that grows plants in any environment without traditional soil.

Green Bay Southwest high school has six.

"We call this the largest six pack in Green Bay," said Tom Sebranek, an Agriculture science teacher at the high school.

He said "the six pack" grows about 35 pounds of lettuce a week.

"I'm a dairy kid, I grew up on a dairy farm so this is my farm," Sebranek said. "It's giving them a different way that, 'Hey, I'm helping the community, our school, that no else is."

Fork Farms CEO and Appleton native, Alex Tyink, said the stories of students help motivate him.

"Incredible," Tyink said. "When I get those rare opportunities to hear a story like that, that's what helps me get up in the morning and it really reminds you of why you're doing the work."

For Larsen, and her story, she said the exposure to modern grows and fresh food is giving her thoughts about her future.

"I feel like that's a really cool concept," Larsen said. "I would do something like that, I love the idea of teaching kids and using this to teach kids would be even cooler."

Fork Farms isn't the only sustainable agriculture model at the school. By the end of the year they hope to introduce a FarmBot. From planting to watering, the gardening is done almost 100% by robot.