CHS celebrates first Leafy Green Machine harvest

CHS celebrates first Leafy Green Machine harvest

From left, Laila Rizkallah, Gina Rodriguez, Amy Lefebvre, Jodi Davies, Lauren Taylor, and Shauna Spillane are members of the Sodexo team at Cumberland High School who have been managing the produce growth in the Leafy Green Machine. (Breeze photos by Ashley Wolf)

CUMBERLAND – In September, Cumberland High School purchased a refurbished shipping container able to produce vegetables in a hydroponic growing facility from Freight Farms.

After seven weeks of growth, the school celebrated its first harvest on Monday.

The Leafy Green Machine, or LGM, can grow a variety of crops, regardless of outside weather conditions. The converted storage container provides students with local and fresh produce throughout the year. Vegetables grow in vertical rows and require little water and electricity.

Sodexo workers at the school have been managing and maintaining the harvest, said Shauna Spillane, food service director for Sodexo.

Supt. Robert Mitchell and Spillane welcomed guests to Monday’s event. Visitors were invited to tour the LGM and hear about the machine’s process from Andrew McCue, account manager in farm sales and support at Freight Farms.

The school showcased new selections made possible due to the arrival of the first crop, including kale soup, green smoothies, and greens for the salad, deli and burger bars, said Spillane.

“We’re harvesting romaine, butterhead lettuce and kale, and some fresh herbs,” she said.

There are 160 Freight Farms throughout the globe, and Cumberland High School is one of 10 high schools to have the machine, said Rachel Wisentaner, business development representative from Freight Farms.

“I think it’s great to talk to everyone here and see what their plans are for the future, and how passionate the team is here,” she said. “Obviously, you can see that with everything they made. It’s really nice to see.”

The school hopes to bring students into the harvesting process soon through an environmental science class, said Mitchell.

“We’re developing a pathway through the environmental science wing for next year,” Spillane said. “We do have hopes for January to get some special projects involved. We also have a trade program for special needs programs. We’re hoping to get them to a pathway to teach some of those skills.”

The produce grown in the LGM is more nutritious and vibrant than produce that is shipped to the school, Spillane said. Produce that travels from California to Rhode Island loses a lot of nutrients in its travels, she said.

“If we pick something in the morning and a student is eating it for noontime, the nutrients are definitely right there,” she said. “It’s the best way to consume produce that is locally grown.”

Editor's note: The above article has been changed to correctly identify the number of Freight Farms. A previous version of the article incorrectly stated there were 460 across the country.

Inside the LGM, produce grows vertically.