Donated Tuesday by the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, the technology, which filled a small tractor-trailer, will be split between Adairsville, Cass and Woodland high schools.
“This is the result of a seizure from an indoor marijuana grow, hydroponic grow that we confiscated and did asset forfeiture on and had it forfeited to the state from a marijuana grower,” DTF Commander Capt. Mark Mayton said. “This is just another example of where we’ve taken a drug dealer’s profits and gains and turned them back for the good of the community.”
Lights, pumps, dividers, hoses, air stones — the thousands of dollars in equipment will be installed at each school to teach students the latest in alternative grow methods.
“We just got a new ag lab, so this will give us some equipment that we can set up in there and the kids can see both sides,” said Tyrone Casteel with Woodland High. “We have the greenhouse now. Hydroponics is becoming big in the industry. They do basil and lettuce and things like that, so the kids can see that side of it also.”
Adairsville High’s Kristen Covol said the donation will help students experience firsthand recent studies.
“We actually just finished studying soils, so we talked about different growing mediums as opposed to just regular soil that they’re used to,” she said. “In our book, it mentioned hydroponics and a lot of the students thought it was really neat and they’d like to be able to see it in the classroom.”
Capable of growing most garden produce and cut flowers, the hydroponic equipment also can be used for aquaponics, which is what Cass High teacher Joey Dean plans to do.
“I want to incorporate it into an aquaponics lab where you’re, in essence, growing livestock and produce in the same area. The waste from the fish will fertilize your plants as they grow,” Dean said. “With the world going the way it’s going, everybody wants something sustainable or sustainable-type agriculture, and this is going to get me closer to being able to teach sustainable.”
And sustainability methods are integral to agriculture success.
“I can say this, coming from outside of teaching agriculture to the inside of teaching agriculture, is there is a huge push in the community for localized foods and sustainable agriculture. I know I keep saying that word but I hear it all the time,” Dean said. “… Restaurants now, it’s a big deal to sell local, it’s a big deal to have hormone-free. This type of stuff leads you to be able to do that.”
With each high school’s program averaging about 150 students, the monetary importance of Tuesday’s donation was not overlooked.
“These lights can cost as much as $1,000 each, and there’s probably, you know, you see 30 or 40 of those lights. The hydroponic equipment is the most up-to-date way of growing marijuana without dirt, and the teachers are going to use that to teach the kids to get into that industry, to grow the lettuces, the herbs,” Mayton said. “We have to dispose of it some way, and this was just a way that I thought we could turn a drug dealer’s profits and gains back to good for our community.
“With the support of both of our agencies at the task force, we were able to come to an agreement. We all thought it would be for the betterment of the community and our school systems to make good use of this versus just taking it to the landfill and destroying it. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars of up-to-date greenhouse growing equipment.”
Both Casteel and Covol echoed the captain’s statement.
“It would use a good portion of our budget ...,” Casteel said, “so it would not be an item we could buy and set up all at one time. It would be a long-term sort of deal, so it’s almost an immediate thing that we could get.”
“... It’s going to save a lot of money that may have been used or may have been applied for through grants …,” Covol added. “I know that it’s so important for the kids to know or be able to learn the new technology, the bio-technology that’s involved, especially in produce, because the hydroponics allow us to grow more efficiently. The products that are coming out of it are a lot healthier, they are a lot bigger, they are just not as contaminated by any pesticides, things like that.”
Each school will have students set up the hydroponic grow systems with produce expected to be ready in the spring.