On Thursday, Jan. 18, as students passed or walked through the cafeteria, their peripheral vision caught a glimpse of bright fluorescent lighting in the left corner of the space. When their curious minds searched for the source of light, their eyes laid on three peculiar looking towers with the fluorescent lights surrounding each one. The towers had multiple protruding inserts, each one containing something green.
These towers, brought in and implemented by the Life Instruction Guiding Huntley Transition Program, are well-known by the product name of Tower Gardens (technically known as vertical aeroponic growing systems), which are produced by the health- and nutrition-focused company called Juice Plus.
As defined by the Tower Garden website, “[The] Tower Garden, a vertical, aeroponic growing system, allows you to grow up to 20 vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers in less than three square feet – indoors or out.”
The information on the homepage also states that the Towers require no dirt or pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides…but they require only water, nutrients, and light (natural light or grow lights). These aeroponic systems are known to help grow plants faster and in larger amounts than in traditional gardens, promising “abundant, nutritious harvests just weeks after planting.” Not much expertise or toil is required of the gardener, either.
The indoor convenience of the Towers caught the eyes of multiple high schools around the country and have purchased them for implementation, including Crystal Lake South High School.
It was because of CLSHS that District 158 first heard about the Tower Gardens. Director of Food Services Kevin Harris was interested in the product and brought this idea to Liz Kienzle, the transition facilitator of the LIGHT Program.
After hearing about them, Kienzle and LIGHT Tier I teacher Lauren Felde spoke with Juice Plus representative Joan Olson to get even more information about the Tower Gardens.
They then went to CLSHS and observed the Tower Gardens there. They both believed bringing the Towers to HHS would definitely benefit the entire school with fresh produce. In addition, the maintenance of the Towers would educate their students on goals, job skills, and responsibility, which is what the LIGHT Program teaches in order for the 18- to 22-year-old special education students to transition into life after high school.
“When [the Tower Gardens] were presented, they seemed pretty flawless, which is good,” Felde said. “The students can [garden] without tons of tasks; we can dive in and it’s not completely overwhelming. Fresh and healthy is what we’re trying to teach them.”
And when pondering all that the Towers could benefit, both Kienzle and Felde decided to take the idea to the district office. There, everyone supported the idea and was ecstatic.
The only other step was to bring them to the high school and discuss how things will work with the Towers in the cafeteria.
As Principal Scott Rowe stated on the Raider Nation News segment, the LIGHT students will ultimately be in charge of harvesting the produce. According to Kienzle and Felde, the students will also be able to work with the staff in food services to provide this produce in the sandwiches and at the salad bar.
One of the other purposes in mind for the Tower Gardens are to promote healthy lifestyles. HHS students will be able to eat produce knowing exactly where it came from, ensuring the food they will be eating is completely organic: untouched by chemicals and packed with nutrients.
“The lettuce that we’re going to be growing will be harvested that day and it’s going to be served that day,” Kienzle said. “The food will be at highest quality, so it’s going to be fantastic for the students and staff as well.”
The produce that is growing in the Towers are different varieties of lettuce: arugula, bib, mixed greens, and gourmet lettuce, according to Felde. Kienzle also stated that a bunch of seeds were ordered, but what is grown in the Towers will be dependent upon demand.
The LIGHT students held a Q&A during lunch hours on Jan. 30, and will be holding another one on Jan. 31 during lunch hours for any additional questions or concerns about the Tower Gardens.
For more information about Tower Gardens, click the link below to watch a video:
What is Tower Garden® Vertical Aeroponic Growing System?