MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton tries out the new equipment.
By Tony Tagliavia
Urban Agriculture students at Milwaukee Public Schools’ Harold S. Vincent High School will soon be able to turn acres of their campus into an open-air classroom thanks to a generous donation from Racine-based Case IH announced Thursday, March 28, 2013.
Case IH, a global leader in agriculture equipment, has donated two tractors, a front loader and a utility vehicle to the new Urban Ag program at Vincent.
The school and students plan to use the equipment to assist in planting crops – perhaps including alfalfa, corn and oats – on Vincent’s 92- acre far-northwest Milwaukee campus. The crops will be donated to local farmers and/or the Wisconsin State Fair for animal feed.
Milwaukee is a hub of the urban agriculture movement, including companies such as Growing Power and Sweet Water Organics which produce healthy food locally. The area is also a hub for food manufacturing. According to regional economic development group Milwaukee 7, the Milwaukee region is home to the highest concentration of food and beverage manufacturing talent among the nation’s 50 largest metro areas. The region also boasts the nation’s third highest concentration of food scientists.
The new program at Vincent, launched this school year, directly connects students to those college and career pathways with coursework that covers urban agriculture, aquaponics, biotechnology/ biofuels, botany, food science, landscape/design, urban gardening/horticulture and veterinary science. In addition to the new equipment, students have access to and help operate a bee apiary, a greenhouse and a “hoop” house.
The program partners with two Milwaukee-based leaders in the urban agriculture field — Growing Power and Sweet Water — along with FaB Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin- Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and its WATER Institute, and the University of Wisconsin- River Falls.
Instructors in the program – science faculty members Rich DePalma and Mark Hladilek and Career and Technical Education (CTE) faculty members Kyle Slick and Kevin Hach – worked through Cardinal Stritch University to develop an aquaponics curriculum tied to the rigorous Next Generation Science Frameworks.
Hach calls the gift “extremely valuable. It will mean being able to efficiently turn over the fields to prepare them with proper soil conditions and maintain whatever we put in the field.” The gift allows instructors to expand and deepen Urban Ag opportunities for students. Students in the program with driver’s licenses will be trained to operate the equipment and maintain the crops. And Hach, who also teaches automotive courses at Vincent with instructor Tim Long, said students will also have the opportunity to learn how to perform preventative maintenance on the equipment as well as to diagnose and service it.