A greenhouse at the St. Louis Job Corps Center, in St. Louis, Mo., provides students with a variety of opportunities to learn about energy-efficient systems in heating, cooling, ventilation, and water usage, as well as energy production and the life cycle of plants – experiences that can help students break into urban agriculture, a growing field in Missouri.
Carpentry, Cement Masonry, Facilities Maintenance, Home Building Institute (HBI), and Welding students participated in all facets of the project – from the initial groundbreaking and construction to building the hydroponic and aquaponic systems, to installing the electrical, solar, and wind equipment that power and control the heat for the greenhouse. The hydroponic and aquaponic systems work together to sustain temperatures for growing vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. The aquaponic system includes live fish that eat algae, and their waste helps fertilize the water for the plants.
Culinary Arts and HBI students will be involved in the care of the fish and the vegetables. The greenhouse vegetables will be used in Culinary Arts classes, and excess produce will be donated to neighboring food banks.
The greenhouse also will be used as a teaching aid for biology classes in the center's high school diploma classes. The center is partnering with Lincoln University's Cooperative Extension Urban Impact Center, in St. Louis, Mo., to give students advanced training opportunities in agribusiness. Students who complete the advanced training option at the St. Louis Center can receive certifications in water testing, food product transportation, and agribusiness through the university.