The Bayard High School FFA chapter was presented with a $10,000 donation from WESTCO
and the Land O’Lakes Foundation at the FFA Banquet on April 29. The donation was made possible by the Land O’Lakes Foundation Coop Match Program.
WESTCO had been in contact with Bayard Secondary Principal Kelly Rice about projects they were working on this year.
“At WESTCO we support our youth throughout the region and Land O’Lakes, one of our vendors had a grant program available. We were able to obtain that grant for Bayard, which will go towards their greenhouse,” said WESTCO General Manager David Briggs.
Approximately 50 Bayard students are involved in the horticulture program each year.
The Bayard greenhouse will have an aquaponics system, currently housed in the FFA classroom.
“The aquaponics is basically a hydroponics system with fish that create all the nutrients. So basically the students feed the fish, and the fish then provide all the nutrients to the plants in the system,” said Justin Rafferty agricultural FFA advisor for Bayard Public Schools.
The system is 100 percent soil-less, it uses a clay media bed with a raft bed with plants in it.
In the inaugural year the students used coy fish; this year they had 63 brown trout, which did well in the system. The trout will now be moved to a private pond, as each year the system will use new fish.
Rafferty and the FFA students are working on a partnership with a local resident, who has a private pond. Where they would raise the fish for him every year depending on the species, he would prefer.
The greenhouse will become a self-contained horticulture classroom where students can study both aquaponics and soil-based plant systems.
The FFA students and Rafferty chose the aquaponic system rather than a typical dirt system to keep a smaller footprint.
“The footprint it takes up is only 5ft wide and 20ft long, and the idea is sustainable agriculture,” Rafferty said. “You have your fish on one end growing your protein and the other end where the plants are you can grow your fruits and vegetables.”
The system teaches students about creating an ecosystem as it is self-sustaining and they can grow around 70 plants in the greenhouse.
Construction will begin this spring on the greenhouse with completion scheduled in time for fall classes.