Falls Church students move food from farm-to-table

Falls Church students move food from farm-to-table (ABC7)

It's feeding time for the tilapia that call a large fish tank at George Mason High School in Falls Church home.

Justin Gemond is a senior at the school who helps care for the farmed fish.

"It's just kind of like a sense of responsibility that I really haven't felt before," Gemond told ABC7 News.

Raising fish is an essential aspect of the farm-to-table program at Mason. The farmers are students who are growing their crops inside the school.

Biology Teacher Peter Mecca explained, "We're in the process of now getting our aquaculture system converted, transitioned into aquaponics where we can combine the fish tank as well as the lettuce."

Waste from the fish can be turned into fertilizer for lettuce plants. Those student-grown-vegetables will eventually be sold to the school and served for lunch.

Falls Church City Food Service Director Richard Kane commented, "Now, we're growing our food from seed all the way to maturity through the whole lifecycle. So now students get to see it and it's only a few steps from where we grow the lettuce to the actual kitchen."

Last year, the students harvested more than 85 pounds of lettuce which wound up in the school cafeteria. The school system paid $2.86 per pound for the harvest; money that students reinvested into the farm-to-table program.

Gemond added, "The fact that we were able to sell it to the school and other local farmers markets, I think that's pretty amazing."

The Environmental Protection Agency is also taking notice and recognized the students with a President's Environmental Youth Award.

"I've definitely learned that it takes a lot more to get the food that we get, put on our tables. It just takes so much more than I could have ever imagined," Adrian Kamel, 18, remarked.

Next school year, Mason hopes to have a fully automated garden in place.

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