New York School Kids Build Their Own Greenhouse, Grow Their Own Veggies

Belfast school greenhouse photo

Image: Rodney Volkmar

You know it's dedication when a teacher decides to teach his kids aquaponics in environmental science class, have them bring the vegetables they grow to the school cafeteria, and then spend time looking for funding to expand that program. And effort like that pays off. After numerous setbacks, Josh Hazelton of Belfast Central school in New York State managed to secure a $25,000 grant that enabled him and his students to build a greenhouse dome, which they will use to grow vegetables using both soil and aquaponics.The greenhouse is an energy-efficient dome that runs completely on solar power. Vegetables will be grown in soil on the lower level of the dome, and a second level will be installed and be used to grow lettuce using aquaponics.

Belfast school greenhouse construction photo

Kids at work constructing the greenhouse
Image: Joshua Hazelton

The school is in a high-poverty area, and 1 in 2 Belfast students qualify for free or reduced lunch, so the expected savings in food cost for the district will go a long way. The vegetables grown in the new greenhouse, as well as the ones already grown in the indoor 1000-gallon aquaponics system that can grow 15 to 20 heads of lettuce a week, will all boost the cafeteria's supply of fresh produce with which to feed the kids.

Hazelton said they hope to expand the program further and plant the area around the greenhouse with bushes and fruit-bearing trees, as well as create raised beds to grow food over the summer during the summer recreation program. (The school's cafeteria is open year-round for kids that qualify for free lunches. Fresh lettuce grown just meters away from where they will eat it—not bad!)

They're looking for more grants to support the continued expansion of the program.

Belfast lettuce photo

Lettuce grown indoors using aquaponics
Image: Joshua Hazelton

Hazelton explains some of the impact that the greenhouse could have for Belfast:

We hope that between the greenhouse and the system in the school we will be able to produce most of the schools fresh vegetables. By producing them here at the school we can create pride in our school, we can encourage students to eat more fresh vegetables because they grew them, and learn how to grow vegetables and garden.

To see the building of the greenhouse in action, check out this time-lapsed video of the second day of construction.

More on schools gardens and greenhouses:
How to Grow an Edible School Garden
The Greenhouse Project Transforms NYC School's Vacant Rooftop
Setting Up and Running a School Garden. Toolkits for Teachers

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