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January's Learning Partner is Getting SAGES "Growing" Hydroponically!
January's Learning Partner is Getting SAGES "Growing" Hydroponically!
Sheri Hicken
Monday, December 30, 2019

Meet SAGES' Learning Partner is a special monthly segment showcasing the valuable people, businesses, and groups who contribute to the success of our school. As we enter the New Year, we’re excited to be embarking on a new “real world” learning opportunity with our district’s Food Service Management company — A’viands!

SAGES was contacted in early-September 2019 by Gil Shaw, Fork Farms LLC of Appleton, Wisconsin about a gift for growing and learning. Mr. Shaw explained Fork Farms was working in partnership with A’viands to place a number of their Flex Farm hydroponic systems at A’viands contracted schools. Waupun Area School District was among the locations A’viands wanted to place a Flex Farm at no cost to the district. The idea was to have this innovative, self-contained system in a classroom where learners could interact with it and grow greens or herbs to be utilized in the food service. 

Appreciative, yet cautious of this offer to acquire a Flex Farm 288, standing 6’ tall, and capable of holding 288 plants and over 300 pounds of produce in a year, we paused taking time to consider various logistics that would accompany this gift. Where would it be located? What class(es) would be involved in managing, growing, and harvesting? How much time does it take to maintain? How much does it cost to operate? Energy needed to run? Many of our questions were quickly answered on Fork Farm’s website “Frequently Asked Questions” page. Our research also included conversations with other schools already using Flex Farm systems, as well as, further dialogue with A’viands and Fork Farms. 

Satisfied with our findings, during the October 28, 2019 WASD Business Meeting, SAGES officially informed the School Board of our interest and excitement of accepting such an amazing gift with endless “real world” learning potential. The board agreed and in December three large boxes arrived at the school. With guidance from our Agricultural Educator, Mrs. Hicken, SAGES’ 5th grade learners enthusiastically took on the challenge of putting the Flex Farm together and are anxious to get “growing” in January! 

A’viands prides themselves on being a scratch base company. “We begin every day from scratch,” noted Matt Mastrangelo, A’viands District Manager for Wisconsin. He is passionate about the partnership with Fork Farms and integrating Nutrition Education into the food service for their clients, such as schools. In his vision, the Flex Farm will not only provide produce, but also serve as a “Field Trip” without leaving the school’s building. With a warm smile, Mastrangelo shared, “I’m delighted to bring our fresh values into schools.” 

SAGES will be A’viands first K-12 building with a Flex Farm installment. To start, we’ll be growing basil for A’viands to use to enhance the flavor and freshness of school district menu items without adding salt. Cheryl Elsner, WASD Food Service Director, is excited to integrate the fresh herbs into their recipes and continue building on A’viands use of local, student-grown produce. She already works with the High School Agriculture Department using produce like green onions and sunflower sprouts grown by ag students in the high school’s greenhouses.  

A’viands, THANK YOU for selecting SAGES for this unique learning opportunity through your gift of a Flex Farm hydroponic system. We look forward to “growing together” with you and Fork Farms!