In Merrifield, Virginia, US, eighth graders at Luther Jackson Middle School created a project that grows produce using aquaponics, a method of farming that benefits both plants and fish by combining hydroponics and aquaculture. This method works by creating a mutually beneficial cycle where the fish’s waste serves as the plant’s fertilizer, and the plants provide clean water for the fish. Although Mark Smith, an engineering teacher and director of the school’s ESTEEM center, contributed to the logistics of the process, he credits the students for the idea and effort they put in. Having taken two years in preparation, the farming system is now easily growing food in a greenhouse in the back of the school. The students delight in the fact that the food can be easily grown indoors without the disturbance of soil, bugs, or pesticides, as well as take pride that the food is contributing to the school’s food pantry. The food pantry is open every other Wednesday to around 70 families with enrolled students who are facing food insecurities. "Mr. Smith's Jackson-grown produce will be a welcome addition to our offerings," said Jenna Von Elling, the parent volunteer food pantry coordinator. "It's wonderful that he is helping our students make connections between growing food and caring for their larger community." The students hope that the vertical farming idea will spread to other Fairfax County schools nearby, and inspire others to think about potential career opportunities.

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