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Grant helps move farming indoors

When the letter “A” is dropped into the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in most school districts, it stands for Arts. In the rural Weyauwega-Fremont School District, when they add the “A” they’re talking about Agriculture.

Aquaculture file image

All W-F students are required to take at least one agriculture class between 6th and 12th grade. Thanks to a $4,245 grant from the Environmental Stewardship Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, one of the choices will be aquaculture.

The grant will pay most of the cost of equipment and supplies needed to operate the indoor farm. Students at the Waupaca County school district with an enrollment just under 900 will grow vegetables for the school hot lunch program.

Kandi Martin, W-F director of pupil services and curriculum, said the vegetables grown in-house will help offset the costs for the food service, which will make lunch cheaper for students. The aquaponics system will use water with nutrients added to grow eight times more food per acre than they could planting in a farm field, Martin said, and without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.

The aquaculture equipment in manufactured in the central Wisconsin city of Montello.

The Environmental Stewardship Fund was created in 2003 when the Community Foundation Board of Directors approved $50,000 to match gifts from donors for a permanent endowment to provide grants for environmental projects. Fifty-four donors contributed at least $1,000 each. The fund continues to support environmental projects with grants of up to $2,500.

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