Rockcastle County High School becomes the twelfth high school to receive a high-tech farm classroom through the AppHarvest Foundation program
This is the second farm classroom funded by Cowen giving Eastern Kentucky students hands-on experience growing salad greens and other vegetables
MOREHEAD, Ky., Nov. 9, 2022 — The AppHarvest Foundation, working to help grow the next generation of Farmers + Futurists by teaching entrepreneurship and high-tech agriculture by introducing high school students to controlled environment agriculture (CEA) across Central Appalachia, today announced expansion of its AgTech Education Program with a hydroponic farm classroom at Rockcastle County High school in Mount Vernon, Ky.
The Rockcastle County farm classroom was funded by leading financial services firm Cowen, Inc., in collaboration with the AppHarvest Foundation. The funding provides the school with a shipping container retrofitted with high-tech equipment to serve as hands-on agricultural classrooms where students hydroponically grow vegetables such as salad greens to distribute to their classmates and those in need in their communities.
“CEA is one of the fastest growing industries and Cowen is proud to again partner with the AppHarvest Foundation in expanding AgTech Education in Eastern Kentucky first at Madison Southern High School and now at Rockcastle County High School. Innovative grassroots collaborations like these will help drive sustainable job creation and workforce development in the region,” said Cowen Chair and CEO Jeffrey M. Solomon.
The Rockcastle farm classroom is about twenty minutes from AppHarvest’s new 15-acre salad greens facility in Berea featuring a “touchless growing system” with autonomous harvesting that will be used in the new “Queen of Greens®” washed-and-ready-to-eat packaged salad brand. First commercial shipments from AppHarvest Berea began in late October.
“We are so appreciative to have partners like Cowen whose investment in Eastern Kentucky students will make a tangible difference in our region’s local communities,” said AppHarvest Foundation Director and AppHarvest Vice President of Community Outreach Amy Samples. “With the launch at Rockcastle County High School, we now have a full dozen farm classrooms teaching students the same high-tech, sustainable agricultural practices we apply in our own CEA facilities.”
Since 2018, the AppHarvest Foundation has launched AgTech classrooms at Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington; Madison Southern High School in Berea; Madison Central High School in Richmond; Breathitt High School in Jackson; Shelby Valley High School in Pikeville; Floyd County School of Innovation in Martin; Elliott County High School in Sandy Hook; Menifee County High School in Frenchburg; Johnson Central High School in Paintsville; Fleming County High School in Flemingsburg; and Rowan County Senior High School in Morehead.
Rockcastle County High School agricultural education instructor Matthew Whitaker leads the new farm classroom and STEM-based AgTech curriculum focused on topics such as high-tech hydroponic growing, supply chain and food production analysis, and an introduction to local food systems.
“The hydroponic classroom allows students to experience a real life, hands-on farming experience that supplements their traditional ag classes in a unique and engaging way,” said Whitaker. “Since the beginning of the school year, 35 students have been working in the farm each week and they’ve already harvested about 300 pounds of salad greens.”
Student farmers can cultivate up to 5,000 plants at a time using a hydroponic growing system with efficient LED lights and a closed-loop irrigation system that is designed to use up to 90% less water than open-field agriculture without agricultural runoff.
AppHarvest now has three farms shipping produce to national customers, the 60-acre high-tech indoor farm in Morehead producing sustainably grown tomatoes, the 15-acre Berea salad greens facility and the 30-acre Somerset berry facility. The 60-acre Richmond, Ky., tomato farm is expected to start planting in November.
About AppHarvest Foundation
The AppHarvest Foundation, a charitable fund supported by AppHarvest, is committed to growing the next generation of Farmers + Futurists by providing hands-on Ag Tech educational opportunities teaching entrepreneurship and controlled environment agriculture through a STEM-based curriculum. The program inspires youth and adults to learn more about opportunities in one of the fastest growing industries by introducing AgTech education to them. For more information, visit www.appharvestfoundation.org.
Darla Turner, Darla.Turner@appharvest.com