Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Students learn to be much more than farmers at Chicago Ag

      If your lettuce wasn't an enticing shade of green this summer, maybe the problem is you weren't fertilizing with fish poop.
     The rows of lettuce at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences were so appealing, it was all I could do not to tear off a leaf and pop it into my mouth. That seemed rude, so instead I fled over to peer into the murky depths of one of the four big tanks where tilapia swim, generating their contribution to agronomy, their soiled water used to water the plants. The fish themselves eventually are fried at a school party.
     The Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network was holding a symposium at the school Monday about the city's role in food and agricultural education, and invited me.
     While bad-mouthing Chicago Public Schools is a constant theme in both public life and journalism, and not without reason, the system's pervasive problems have a way of obscuring gems like Chicago Ag, as students call it. 
     The school sits on 72 acres in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, half of which is planted with crops. Last summer the school raised sunflowers, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, both orange and pink (for breast cancer awareness), Swiss chard, kohlrabi, broccoli, peppers, watermelon, cucumbers, mustard greens, cabbage, onions, okra and soybeans.

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Joan Sanford shows the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences' cannulated cow.


  1. Nicely done. I live a couple miles North of the school and have driven past it hundreds of times, curious, but not curious enough to stop and take a look around. A bit ambivalent about the cannulated cow, however. Reminds me of the guy with the open stomach that doctors flocked to see in the 19th Century.

  2. Really enjoyed this article. Who knew?

  3. That is an impressive hydroponic setup, an excellent learning tool. It can generate a profit when growing herbs and spices. But that cow geez, that's blood dripping from the surgical implant. It's creeping towards the udder, shudder. Not kosher, not kosher at all.

    1. It didn't strike me as blood, but rather some general gastric juices. Though I didn't test it.


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