Wisconsin Students Grow Spinach in High Tunnel Greenhouse
UW-Extension Offers Opportunity For Learning and Job Experience
WASHBURN, Wis. – For the past two years, the UW-Extension has been working with Washburn High School to see how high tunnel to see how high tunnel greenhouses can help with growing produce all year.
“I’ve learned that spinach is pretty hearty,” said ninth-grade student Seth Johnson, “we’ve been testing different heats, different soils, to see what makes it grow more and what makes it grow less, what could potentially kill it and make it thrive”
There are 80 high tunnels found throughout the South Shore region and students started this project to see if they could be used in the winter, too.
“There’s been some days where even if you have all of the heating equipment on it’s gotten to freezing in here,” said Johnson.
This school year the challenge was spinach and picking started back in November.
“It’s really good spinach, too, it tastes like fresh and better than store bought, generally,” said ninth-grade student Signe Overby.
Throughout the Winter and Spring, students stop by the greenhouse in the morning and at the end of the day to check on the different beds.
“Certain beds are set for certain temperatures, so when it’s a sunny day out it’s going to be warmer in here, so you uncover certain beds depending on the temperature inside the high tunnel,” said ninth-grade student Caroline Ray.
Throughout the years, students have worked with basil, tomatoes, parsnips and more.
Washburn High School Junior, Mitchel Hinson, even took on his own challenge in the past.
“In my Freshman year I did an independent study and I used the high tunnel to test some different ways that plants can grow within really close proximity to each other,” Hinson explained.
Jason Fischbach, the Agriculture Agent for UW-Extension, says this is an opportunity for the kids to get outside during the day and expand their education with hands-on learning.
“They learn a lot about how to do science. You know, this is a fully replicated controlled experiment and so they learn about the experimental design and the data collection and data analysis,” Fischbach said.
Most importantly, the students say they’re having fun, “it makes me happy, like watching all the plants grow,” said Overby.