Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Mayor Michael Bloomberg Proclaim June 11, Urban Farm Education Day
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY–(Marketwired – Jun 12, 2013) – Popular Online grocer FreshDirect’s inaugural Green Angel Fund challenge between the Sustainability Workshop School in Philadelphia and the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School in the Bronx came to an exciting conclusion today, when an expert panel of judges deemed that both schools tied in creating innovative hydroponic gardens, based on yield and eco-friendly design. For three months, the two schools have been competing in an urban agriculture competition, hosted by FreshDirect, to build the nation’s most innovative hydroponic garden as part of a larger mission to address inner-city food and farming issues.
On June 11(th) , the schools met for the first time and presented their designs and working hydroponic gardens to an expert panel of judges made up of thought-leaders in the food, farming and environmental space. Judges included: Peppe Bonfiglio of Mastronardi Produce; Sarah Copeland, Food Director for Real Simple Magazine; Abby Perlstein O’Brien, Owner of County Line Nurseries and Chair of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council; Stacie Alexiou of Tishman Construction; Fay Leoussis, Chief, Tort Division, NYC Law Department; and David McInerney, FreshDirect’s Co-Founder. Students were judged on categories including: how many varieties of fruits and vegetables were grown; how well students managed operating costs; unique attributes of the gardens including mobility and materials used; garden yield; eco-friendliness; nutrient-management; and taste.
Throughout the project, both schools were partnered with farmer mentors who FreshDirect sources from. The students at the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School were mentored by Viraj Puri, owner of Gotham Greens as well as Stephen Ritz, Co-Founder of the Green Bronx Machine and his colleague Alex Payne. The students at the Sustainability Workshop School were mentored by Bruce Cobb, owner of Arc Greenhouses. In addition to bragging rights, the tied vote allowed participating students from both schools to be sent on an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco, where they will be featured as highlighted guests at the National Indoor Gardening Expo. The students will present their key insights and innovations and have the opportunity to meet with industry leaders in hydroponics to discuss their models for sustainable agriculture.
“After much deliberation the judges decided the students’ gardens were equally innovative, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to reward all of these students for designing such incredible, practical solutions for sustainable agriculture,” said David McInerney, FreshDirect Co-Founder. “We chose these two schools based on their innovative curriculums and focus on solving ‘real world’ problems in an urban setting, but every judge was completely awed by the insight and expertise they showed about growing fresh, nutrient-dense food indoors and in cities with a minimal carbon footprint. We can’t wait to continue this challenge year after year, and tap into our youth to help uncover how we can change the future for our farmers and anyone living in a food desert.”
About the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School’s Hydroponic Garden
The John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School students created vertical green walls and window gardens that incorporate a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). The closed-loop system insures that nutrients stay within the system and that there is no run-off. The system is disease and pest free. The garden can be used to support the school’s culinary program and further encourage healthy eating and living through urban gardening. Students are growing rainbow and Swiss chard, tatsoi, red veined sorrel and purple mizuna for the first time. They are able to plant, grow and eat them all within a 20-foot span. A skylight provides supplementary lighting to the gardens and enables students to go from growing table, to kitchen, to dinner table with no carbon footprint, no pesticides and no waste.
“During our project, I have seen a small group of students commit to a new vision of how they can impact their lives and their community,” said Marc Donald, Principal at the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School. “Not only is it great to be a winning school, but it’s wonderful to see that the transformative impact of the project can grow hope and health — as well as vegetables.”
About the Sustainability Workshop School’s Hydroponic Garden
The Sustainability Workshop students named their project Greens-In-A-Box, which is a shipping container turned into a greenhouse. The garden is capable of offering fresh and affordable produce to local communities using hydroponics. Inside the shipping container, plants grow on a raised platform and are heated by purple LED panels. A steady stream of nutrient-infused water flows through the platform. The students created a second growing system on the roof and, through both operations, are growing six different kinds of lettuce and three different kinds of basil. The whole garden is powered by a few nearby solar panels.
“The Green Angel Fund Challenge provided our students with a terrific opportunity to learn about, and participate in, innovative methods of farming,” said Simon Hauger, Co-Founder of the Sustainability Workshop. “It’s incredibly gratifying to see the combined efforts of the students and mentor Bruce Cobb [of Arc Greenhouses] result not only in a winning garden, but also delicious, fresh produce for our friends and families to enjoy.”
As a sign of support for this important venture, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a friendly wager saying they believe each of their respective city’s schools will win the challenge. Both mayors proclaimed June 11 — the day the hydroponic gardens are revealed to the public for the first time — “Urban Farm Education Day” in Philadelphia and New York City.
“The John V. Lindsay Wildcat Charter School students make our City proud, and they truly take our commitment to launching school agriculture programs to the next level,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “As we wrap up the school year, I’m excited to celebrate Urban Farm Education Day, and look forward to seeing the students’ innovations become practices that truly further sustainable agriculture.”
“These hard-working students have demonstrated that young people are key not only to creating greener practices, but also to get us all to thinking about how to eat and grow fresh, healthy foods,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “I’m excited to proclaim June 11(th) as Urban Farm Education Day and hope we all take a moment to reflect on the importance of innovative projects like these for our younger generation.”
The competition was hosted and funded by FreshDirect, an online grocery retailer dedicated to changing the relationship people have with food, freshness and farmers. The Green Angel Fund was inspired by FreshDirect’s mission to continually drive environmental sustainability innovation. It is one of the first seed funds specifically focused on launching student-developed green ventures.
FreshDirect is a leading online grocer in the U.S., delivering premium quality fresh-from-the-farm foods and brand-name groceries to customers in the greater New York, New Jersey, Connecticut metro area and greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. With a more than 2,500-member workforce that is still growing, FreshDirect places an emphasis on nutritious, delicious meals and convenient services that allow customers more time to live healthy lives. FreshDirect aspires to be a valued corporate partner in all communities in which it serves.
For more information, visit www.freshdirect.com. Follow FreshDirect on Twitter: @freshdirect and on Facebook: facebook.com/FreshDirect