Something is up at Christ Cathedral Academy. Namely: tomatoes. And lettuce. And a variety of other vegetables. They are growing in 8 new vertical hydroponic gardens at the Christ Cathedral Academy.
The first fruits of the aptly named Garden of Hope have been harvested and the yield was joyfully presented by students to Fr. Christopher Smith, Episcopal Vicar and Rector at Christ Cathedral and to Hank Evers, Director of Development & Communications for the Orange Catholic Foundation, at a special blessing and assembly Feb. 11 on the Christ Cathedral campus.
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The new garden is the result of a generous donation by the PIMCO Foundation and Ms. Joan Steen of Newport Beach. Steen is a member of Our Lady of Mt. Caramel parish. Credit also should be given to Alan Smith, president of Aloha Urban Farming, whose commitment to this project and many hours of planning, product innovation and physically installing the Garden of Hope made it possible. Aloha Urban Farming is the innovator of the hydroponic garden design used in this program.
Evers explained how the project benefits the students.
“Through the use of the hydroponic garden the students have the opportunity to better engage in the STEM educational disciplines. They have firsthand opportunities to learn how things grow in the most efficient and effective way possible,” Evers said. “While at the assembly, I was learning along with the students!”
Hydroponic gardening is the future. The science behind it is that it uses 90 percent less water than a traditional soil garden, which is so important as water supplies dwindle.
“They’re doing this without soil,” Evers said, “which is amazing – how rapidly it grows.” In fact, the soil replacement is a mix of coconut husks and various nutrients.
The students began planting in late January, and just in time for the assembly they had an opportunity to select two small tomatoes that had just ripened.
Evers recounted: “They took them off the plant and they were the first fruits (think scripture); something Fr. Chris mentioned in the prayer and blessing. That was so awesome.”
Evers said the students are “all in” on this project.
“They were all excited to being a part of this and to continue the process of planting, nurturing and growing and then being able to reap the fruits of their labor.”
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the project is the end result.
“They’re planning to use this food to feed the hungry,” Evers said. “That’s full cycle. They’re going all the way around from planting to reaping to feeding.”
The hope is that the garden will provide the seed of inspiration for other schools to create their own gardens.