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Lettuce and Kale and Basil, Oh My!: OHS Senior Harvests First Crop from Aeroponic Grow Tower

What do you get when you mix hungry high school students and homegrown lettuce? A Lettuce Party! 

Earlier this month, Ozark High School Natural Resources & Agriculture Capstone student Senior Tristin Cathcart harvested several varieties of lettuce and herbs including basil, kale, cilantro, chives, arugula and spring mix salad. Naturally, there was only one logical way to celebrate: A Lettuce Party!  

Complete with a variety of toppings and dressings, Cathcart, her classmates, teachers and district administrators enjoyed sampling all that she had grown. 

“I think it was a success,” Cathcart said. “Everybody liked something.”

A Lettuce Party is a tradition that is not new to Natural Resources & Agriculture Academy. It’s long been a celebration at Ozark.

“It’s a fun way to celebrate and sample what students and their peers have grown,” OHS Science Teacher Ryan Edwards said. 

Cathcart’s crop was grown in an aeroponic grow tower as a part of her capstone project. The tower was donated by Ozark School Board Member Patty Quessenberry, who won the tower from the McCauley Foundation, a local nonprofit working to end food insecurity through agriculture programs. 

“When I found out I was the lucky winner of the grow tower, I immediately thought about the Natural Resource Agriculture Academy at the OIC and decided to donate the tower. I was fortunate to help assemble the tower,” Quessenberry said. “Every time I was at the OIC I would stop by and check on the growth. It was amazing! My goal in donating the grow tower was to spark students' interests in the innovation of the dynamics of aeroponics and the growth of plants without soil, using only water and nutrients.”

Carthcart’s capstone project was not only to grow plants in the tower, but also create a guidebook for future students when they use the tower. Cathcart hopes to get another harvest before she graduates in May, and has big dreams for the tower. 

“I’m excited to see where it goes, and see if we can actually expand it to where we can use it in classes and the stuff grown can be used by foods or Prostart students when they cook,” Cathcart said. “But for right now, it's working and hopefully we can expand it in the future after I graduate.”