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Department of Education Tours Montgomery County Hydroponic ‘Freight Farm’ Offering Students Valuable Experience for Future Careers

11/07/2022

Eagleville, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Executive Deputy Secretary Dr. Debora Carrera today visited Windy Hill Farm at Methacton High School to learn about hydroponic farming and tour the school's Freight Farm.

"Methacton High School's Windy Hill Farm is a unique initiative that gives students the opportunity to explore something new and learn to think about farming and agriculture in new ways," said Dr. Carrera. "This futuristic-looking freight farm is bursting with fresh vegetables and it's really interesting to see how students and teachers have used such a small space to make such a large impact."

Methacton High School's Windy Hill Farm, built inside a shipping container, is known as a freight farm Inside, fresh vegetables grow vertically from the walls. The farm is custom-built and contains state-of-the-art technology that provides electricity and fresh water to the shipping container frame. Simply put, hydroponics is a way to substitute soil for nutrient-rich water, allowing growers to produce food virtually anywhere in the world, at any time of the year.

"Imagine learning the science behind hydroponic farming and following that up with learning how to seed, transplant and harvest. This is something our students get to do every day," said Steve Savitz, one of Methacton High School's hydroponic farm teachers. "This level of hands-on learning, along with developing the real-world business skills of marketing, bookkeeping, and fundraising is available by stepping out of the classroom and into Methacton's Hydroponic Farm."

As part of Methacton School District's focus on STEM education, high school students in all grades can choose to take the hydroponic farming course. The course is designed to teach students how plants can be grown hydroponically, that the scientific method is not a linear process, and how hydroponic farming benefits society. In addition to the hands-on experience and learning, the course also has a strong emphasis on business, marketing, computer science, and mathematics.

"Working collaboratively in the farm to grow and create a product is an excellent representation of what's to come." said Isabelle Gerhart, MHS senior.

Pennsylvania agriculture is a $132.5 billion industry that employs more than 590,000 Pennsylvanians. Introducing youth to the opportunities in agriculture, as is being done with the Freight Farm at Methacton High School, is critical to ensuring a skilled workforce for the future success of the industry.

In 2017, the Wolf Administration, in coordination with the General Assembly created the 15-member Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence to help create and implement a statewide plan to align educational programming with increasingly technological needs of today's employers. The commission's third biennial report was released in September, outlining progress made on the commission's recommendations.

Throughout the past eight years, the Wolf Administration has increased education funding by more than $3.7 billion. In his most recent budget, Governor Tom Wolf solidified his commitment to education at all levels with a historic $1.8 billion investment increase. This budget prioritizes resources for Pennsylvanians and helps provide students with the resources they need to be successful.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Education, please visit the website or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest.
 
MEDIA CONTACT: Casey Smith, casesmith@pa.gov 

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