West De Pere High School Principal Russ Gerke saw endless possibilities for his students through a partnership with The Farmory, an effort to bring indoor agriculture to Northeast Wisconsin. Shopko Foundation helps make this possible, and in doing so not only enriches the education of students today, but helps shape tomorrow’s leaders to find fulfillment giving back and helping others their community. Shopko Foundation takes great pride in educating youth and bettering the health and wellness of community members, so the partnership is a perfect match.
What is The Farmory?
The Farmory is a program dedicated to bringing sustainable and indoor agriculture to Northeast Wisconsin. The Farmory started by converting an empty armory building into an indoor aquaponics farm that offers fresh fish and produce year-round. The aquaponics cycle, a symbiotic and sustainable way of making food, uses waste produced by fish to supply nutrients to plants, which in turn help purify the water for the fish.
The Farmory helps provide area residents with the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and self-sufficiency. Most importantly, The Farmory offers a solution for food insecurity that is faced daily by families in our very own communities. A once vacant 20,000-square-foot building now produces 200 pounds of organic food each year.
Gerke sees a partnership with The Farmory as an opportunity to give students hands-on experiences that allow them to see the changes they can make in their communities. He hopes the partnership ignites a fire in students to help and care for others.
“This could potentially grow to help the community and people that are hungry and need resources,” said Gerke. “These are the types of things that may become the impetus for kids to help take care of us when we are older and help take care of the community, and not just think about themselves. Because we need each other.”
The partnership also grants students a chance to work firsthand with the objects they’re studying and using in their classes.
In fall 2017, Gerke was ready to embark on the journey of creating a partnership between The Farmory and the school. As plans began to fall into place, there was a need for a third partner to help make the integration possible.
With Shopko Foundation’s commitment to giving back to their community, it was the perfect fit. Not only could they help make a difference now, but also help shape tomorrow’s leaders to continue to give back. A grant was given and the partnership was formed—and quite possibly, a partnership that will continue for years to come.
An addition to the high school’s greenhouse was made in November, and in early 2018, 100 fish were transferred from The Farmory to West De Pere High School. Though the partnership is just in its infancy stages, Gerke says that students are already fascinated with, and benefitting from, their live, sustainable greenhouse addition.
What It’s Doing
Having a piece of The Farmory inside the school is allowing students to gain hands-on experience
and expand their learning beyond a book. It’s helped students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program and AgriScience courses, as well as those in biology and foods classes. Students are able to get real-life experience with the objects they’re studying and the foods they’re using inside their classrooms.
This involvement is also helping open doors for students when they’re considering career paths, and Gerke hopes that it inspires them to look for ways that their careers can benefit others.
“There’s careers that can be an offshoot of this that can give back to the community,” said Gerke. “This is just another step to help continue to make this the best place for all of us to live and be a strong community. It can’t always be someone else that’s volunteering.”
If you’re interested in helping The Farmory grow alongside the Shopko Foundation, visit their website to learn more about volunteer and donation opportunities.