Some things just want to make you roll your eyes. This story about a high school students in Florida creating a self-sustained, organic farm in Florida is one of those.
The Foundation Academy unveiled an aquaponic farm this week. The little creation is solar powered and uses fish for profit and for fertilizer.
Reading the article you can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy inside for the kids as they glow about their wonderful accomplishment. Take little Tyler (ok, the kid is 14 so he’s not totally little):
“”We built the solar panels so we can get rid of the generators. We have auto-feeders for the fish,” Tyler Thomas, 14, said, smiling with pride as he explained the farm’s operations.”
Isn’t that adorable?!
The kids are even soliciting the community restaurants to buy their produce. Several individuals have already decided to buy what the kids produce.
If you continue reading however, you find out that the farm was paid for with $15,000 worth of donations by the community. That’s nice. Too bad real farms don’t have private donors for all operating expenses.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m sure the kids are proud of their little creation. And sure, using less energy is a good thing. But if this “farm” needed to run a real business and make it in the real world, it wouldn’t work.
I’m wondering how much profit this little operation would actually make. $15,000 in start up costs doesn’t seem like a lot (especially when you get it free!), but neither does 2,400 plants. There is a whole group of students currently running it. How much do each of them want to make as income every year (as owner-operators, I’m sure it’s more than that $15,000 investment). I hope the locals can afford some expensive herbs!
Even if we put aside having to make a profit (because, those farm kids don’t need things like clothes), consider the regulations that would be implicated here. Fish next to the growing food? That would be against upcoming rules by the FDA under the Food Safety and Modernization Act which prohibit wildlife being anywhere near the food. Before selling those fish, are the kids making sure the water being used is of sufficient quality? What about the water used on the plants? The kids probably also need to find a way to sanitize that food, as well as themselves every time they go into the farm area (also rules considered by the FDA). Do they plan on transporting those herbs in sanitary trucks? Or are the buyers going to come pick up the stuff on the farm, which might mean even more problems? And what about liability and insurance?
Finally, let’s consider what message this sends the kids. The flowery language in this article, combined with the sentiments of the school just reinforces the whole “organic is good, conventional is evil” mindset. Sustainability can be good, but making a profit and producing enough food is also good.
This project ends up looking a lot less about running a business, and a lot more like indoctrinating our children in environmentalism 101. When you start to consider everything not taken into consideration I’m not sure how this was supposed to teach kids about “business.”