by Michelle Wirth
Amana Academy recently entered into a partnership with ATL Urban Farms. The unique partnership allows Amana Academy students to become urban farmers and produce food for the school and local charities. ATL Urban Farms is a Georgia-based producer of seedlings for Tower Garden©, an eco-friendly vertical garden made out food grade plastic. The garden technology uses 90 percent less space and grows plants more quickly.
Tower Garden© was created by the Juice Plus+ Company and uses an advanced form of hydroponics called aeroponics. Aeroponic garden systems allow plants to grow in the air rather than soil. The garden technology uses water, liquid nutrients and a soilless growing medium called rockwool, which gives plant roots moisture and oxygen.
“Because our school is located in a former shopping complex, surrounded by asphalt, the Tower Garden© lets our kids see how you can grow food in an urban setting, where you might not have access to large areas of arable land,” says the school’s Sustainability Director, Niki Fox.
Amana Academy teachers are finding ways to integrate the garden into math, science, literacy, even health and physical education curriculum. School leaders say academics aren’t the only advantage this new farm technology is bringing to the school. They point to studies that show allowing students to grow and know where there food comes from helps them make healthier lifestyle choices.
“We are grateful for the partnership we’ve established with Bret Bowlin at ATL Urban Farms,” says the school’s Executive Director, Ehab Jaleel. “Schools thrive when they have the support of businesses and organizations in the community – it allows our students and teachers to benefit from experts who are using science and math in meaningful ways in the real world.”
Since beginning the partnership this fall, the school has already donated produce to a local food bank. It’s also been used in meals prepared by Amana’s cafeteria. In the future, students plan to sell some of its produce in a student-run marketplace.
This partnership between Amana Academy and ATL Urban Farms was facilitated by Tech Alpharetta (formerly the Alpharetta Technology Commission). Tech Alpharetta partnered with ATL Urban Farms to bring Tower Gardens© to the Alpharetta Innovation Center last year.