Students at one Astoria school will be planting the seeds for healthier eating.
The entire eighth grade class at the Young Women’s Leadership School, located at 23-15 Newton Ave., will soon be caring for a hydroponic garden that will grow on the window sills of one of the school’s classrooms.
Marlena Nadler, one of the teachers at the school, started a fundraising page two weeks ago on the site DonorsChoose.org to raise money to finish purchasing the supplies needed to set up the garden.
By Monday, the $525 goal was reached and in the next three weeks the school should be receiving water pumps, basins, nutrients, insect spray, mounts and water testers.
“It was so amazing,” Nadler said about the donations. “It was really nice to know that there are people out there supporting projects like this.”
The garden system, including the grow towers and lights, are being donated by Astoria resident Robert Nannery, who recently started the company Viable Spaces, which installs and maintains hydroponic agricultural systems for nonprofits, restaurants and other businesses.
Hydroponic gardens grow plants without soil, instead using mineral nutrient liquid. The garden being donated to the school will take up almost zero space, be equivalent to about 50 square feet of farm space and will be mounted to the windows.
The students will be able to grow leafy greens such as mint, kale, basil, oregano, lettuce and more.
“Technically you can’t have a farm in the city, it’s not really possible,” Nannery said. “But with what I am looking to do, anybody can farm in the city. It can be indoors or out, you can put them anywhere.”
After installing the garden, Nannery, who has a hydroponic garden growing on the roof of his Astoria home, will go to the classroom every month to talk to students and teach them about what they can grow and how to care for it.
The students will care for the garden during their advisory period of the day, which is used to “focus on the developing of the whole girl, where teachers focus on them growing academically, as well as socially and emotionally,” according to Nadler.
Along with showing the students the scientific, mathematic and social aspects of caring for a garden, the produce will hopefully be used in the school’s cafeteria to feed all students.
Before being fed to students, the vegetables will have to be approved by the Department of Education’s Garden to School Café Program.
“I just hope that they learn that sustainability is something that can occur in urban environments,” Nadler said. “We picture farms and that’s something that isn’t viable in New York City. I never thought that you could grow food in a room and have it be healthy and not genetically modified.”
As soon as the school receives the supplies, Nadler said they hope to have the garden up and running by the beginning of December with hopes to start eating the vegetables by the start of the new year.