Thanks to the Grants for Growing program, the Greensburg FFA in Greensburg, Ind., is helping supply its peers and community with healthy, nutritious foods while also inspiring the next generation to get involved in agriculture.
Sponsored by Tractor Supply Company (TSC), Grants for Growing provides funding to FFA chapters that is acquired through customer donations made during checkout at select TSC store locations. FFA chapters can apply for as much as $5,000 to support the development of agricultural projects that enhance classroom experiences for students through chapter engagement activities.
“We applied for a grant with the Grants for Growing program after one of my students learned about Tower Gardens (vertical, aeroponic growing systems) and wanted to use them for a plant-based project that would help reduce food insecurity,” says Greg Schneider, the FFA advisor and agriscience instructor at Greensburg Community High School (GCHS). “We don’t have a greenhouse, but we do have a little extra space in our classroom, so Tower Gardens made perfect sense for us.”
After securing their grant in 2018, the Greensburg FFA launched their Tree Tower Garden project. To say it’s been successful is a massive understatement. Not only are the gardens used for educational purposes, but also the produce harvested, including kale and lettuce, is served to students in the GCHS cafeteria as part of a farm-to-school program.
“One of my favorite parts of the project is harvesting the food and presenting it to our cafeteria staff,” says Ryan Johnson, a senior at GCHS and a Greensburg FFA member. “They are always excited to prepare and serve the fresh vegetables on our salad bar that feeds both our teachers and peers.”
The project’s impact doesn’t end there. After touring GCHS, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, the Indiana Department of Education superintendent of public instruction, was so impressed by the students’ handiwork that she requested they install a Tower Garden in her office at the Indiana statehouse in Indianapolis.
In addition, plans are in the works for members to install two Tower Gardens in the cancer unit at Decatur County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg. Greensburg FFA members have also had the opportunity to share their ongoing project with students at Greensburg Elementary, which Johnson says has been the most rewarding aspect of the experience.
“Many of the elementary students were fascinated that we were able to grow our own food indoors and without soil,” Johnson says. “As I explained how the system works, the kids were full of questions and developed an interest for growing their own food at home.”
Learn more about grants that fund programs and projects that will help your FFA chapter make a difference in your school, community and beyond.