Moffat County School District, Tri-State, EPRI unveil Farm in a Box Thursday
Moffat County School District, in partnership with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the Electric Power Research Institute, officially unveiled the Agricultural Farm at Moffat County High School in a private ceremony Thursday morning.
The Ag Farm has been in the works since at least mid September in the Craig community. The event was attended by Mayor Ogden, Commissioner Ray Beck, Tri-State CEO Duane Highley, and others. All of the speakers at the event gave a tremendous amount of credit to former Superintendent Dr. David Ulrich, who advocated for this project coming to Craig.
The event took place just outside of the football weight room and the VO-Ag Shop.
The AG farm contains flat screen type surfaces, hanging from the ceiling, in plastic sleeves, or polymer pods. That storage allows the vegetables to grow with the roots being inside each of them, therefore also allowing the nutrients to grow. The electricity needed to power the Farm in a Box, was supplied by the high school. The power is not supplied by solar or wind power due to the fact that those are not a 24/7 energy source to the container.
At the event, Highley spoke about what made them want to partner with the Moffat County School District.
“We know that because of the changes in laws in this country we won’t be able to operate the plant and the mine forever and we are saying what can we do to help the community? What can we do to reinvest in different technologies that still promote higher education, food opportunities in areas that don’t always have the freshest food available?,” Highley said. “So this was just a natural fit for us.”
Highley added that this plan can be duplicated and spread around the country to places that are food deserts, where as much as 60% of food sometimes rots in the transportation from farms and factories.
Highley said that he hopes the students will help both Tri-State and EPRI define the future of indoor farming moving forward.
Highley also spoke about how this could help places going through economic recessions due to businesses like mines and factories closing.
“We will see small communities in rural America where they have lost jobs or where they have large business that sits empty right now that can be repurposed into an indoor AG business and now they will have fresh produce in their community,” Highley said. “It doesn’t have to be transported hundreds of miles and provides local jobs.”
Rob Chapman, EPRI’s Senior Vice President of Energy Delivery and Customer Solutions, spoke about the three things that he wants to emphasis: collaboration, research and what it can meet to the students.
“I think what’s really incredible when you look at this partnership between Tri-State, really with Duane and EPRI as a research partner and Moffat County High School to be able to learn from this and the Craig community in general, that is where we are able to be much stronger as a team than we would be if we were individually trying to deal with these issues,” Chapman said.
He also said that EPRI is very excited about the opportunity to partner with the Moffat County School District and Tri-State to work on the AG Farm because, “This little box right back here is the convergence of energy, agriculture, biodiversity and sustainability.”
MCHS Principal Sarah Hepworth spoke about how she hopes that this impacts the students in a positive way.
One of the main teachers, working on getting the project to the school was Shelby Massey, an Agricultural Education and Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor at the high school. who spoke about what she hopes students take out of this AG farm as they graduate.
“I just hope they see it as a super cool opportunity,” Massey said. “I mean, we are one of the first high schools in the United States to have one. I hope they really, truly see that Tri-State and EPRI saw the potential in us and that they have the potential to make this project a reality.”
Massey also announced that the school will be introducing a new environmental class for students.
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Come Jan. 27, Moffat County School District could be looking ahead to a new type of school week.