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Fish and vegetables soon will grow together at Canton Central

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CANTON — Canton Central School students soon will have a chance to raise fish and grow vegetables simultaneously using new equipment.

A $10,000 grant awarded to the district will be used to purchase two aquaponic systems, said Carol K. Wright, high school agriculture teacher.

One will be set up in the school’s greenhouse, and the other will be in the shop section of the agriculture room.

High school students taking basic agriculture and agriculture science classes will use the system. It also will be available to FFA members in grades six through 12.

“This will provide a way to reinforce math and science skills in a hands-on environment,” Mrs. Wright said. “It’s a symbiotic system, which means the plants and fish benefit from being in the same circulatory water system.”

Essentially, plants soak up nutrients that are deposited by the fish. The type of fish hasn’t been finalized yet, but tilapia may be used because they don’t require a heating system.

Elementary pupils from the after-school Partners in Active Learning Support program also will have a chance to use the system. The PALS program teams up high school students with younger children to work on math and science concepts.

Students from the power mechanics class will help install the aquaponic equipment later this school year.

“We hope to expand our school garden project with these systems by offering school-grown vegetables year round,” Mrs. Wright said.

The merit-based grant was awarded through the Monsanto Fund’s America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education. After a three-tier review process, Canton was among six school districts in the state to receive the grant. A total of $75,000 was awarded statewide.

Canton Central was nominated for the award by members of the teRiele family, longtime Canton dairy farmers.

“It was a total surprise,” Mrs. Wright said, noting that after the nomination she completed the grant application. “This grant wouldn’t have been possible without the local farmers’ support.”

She also credited the district’s administration for its support.

During budget cuts two years ago, the district eliminated the fish farm program it operated at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Farm, Route 68. Mrs. Wright said the new equipment may provide a way to fill that gap.

“I think it’s going to allow us to integrate some of the aquaculture that was taught at the fish farm,” she said.

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