LOWVILLE – With many gardeners hanging up their tools for the winter season, waiting for a time when they can take them out again and head to work outside, Jefferson Community College prepares to offer an agricultural program for high school students in Jefferson and Lewis. counties.
The college’s hydroponics, nutrition and youth advocacy program will run from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays Jan. 15 through Feb. 26 at JCC’s Lewis County Education Center at 7395 East Road in Lowville.
The free six-week workshop is open to students in grades 9-12 and will be taught by Julian R. Mangano, market gardener, local food systems advocate and education center technical specialist.
âIn our current time, we are seeing an aging farming population where the average farmer’s age is 58 – four to seven years before retirement age,â Mangano said. âIn order to maintain the integrity of our food systems, it is necessary that we begin to inspire young people to view agriculture as a career option, and there must be the introduction of new ways of engaging in farming. agriculture so that maybe there are broken stereotypes about how food is grown and what the nature of the overall work is to be able to produce food. “
The HNA Youth Hands-on Program will teach students how to grow plants using hydroponics. Program topics include controlled environment agriculture, hydroponics, growing conditions, nutrition and health, and advocacy for access to quality food. The program will include both lectures and experiential learning.
In addition to talking about production systems related to controlled environment agriculture, the program will also focus on nutrition and how a person can have a well-balanced diet using different parts of a plant and reduce the waste in the process of consumption.
The program will also address food justice and advocacy for food justice, with students being introduced to issues related to food deserts.
âWhile it is not a traditional idea that a rural area that has farms can be a food desert, there are food deserts here,â Mangano said. âSo just making the students aware of what they could do in terms of advocacy efforts to try to get more nutritious and healthy food for themselves and their community members is something that we address in the program as well. “
The kits students will receive include a Kratky hydroponic system using a container – a glass jar – filled with water. Students will fill their jars with water and nutrients, and the roots of the plants will grow and absorb them. Kits will also include a soil-based culture in a jar, as well as a hydroponics-based microgreens grow that takes place inside a meal prep container.
The program will take place centrally in a Freight Farm of a Massachusetts company that is modernizing shipping containers with vertical hydroponic systems.
The HNA Youth Program is made possible by the Northern Frontier Regional Commission through a grant from the Beginner Farmers and Herders Development Program.
âWhen you look at global trends, controlled environment agriculture is gaining popularity not only because it uses new agricultural technologies, but also because of the changing climate elements we face,â Mangano said. âSo being able to grow in an environment where conditions are better controlled allows large, more nutrient dense plants to thriveâ¦ it gives the farmer the ability to take control of his production. “
Students must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or exemption documentation to participate in the program. The registration deadline is January 7th. For more information and to register, visit www.sunyjefferson.edu or call the JCC Workforce Development office at 315-786-2233.