By Bradford Sherman
Piketon High School vocational agricultural students paid a spring visit to The Ohio State University South Centers to learn more about the facility’s various program areas and some of its signature research projects.
Students viewed a short film on how the center’s aquaponics system was constructed before getting to see it in person and speak with Research Associate Thom Harker, who serves as the primary caretaker of the system. Aquaponics is a food production system that pairs aquaculture with hydroponics whereby the nutrient-rich aquaculture water is fed to hydroponically grown plants.
Farm Manager Wayne Lewis then led a wagon tour of the South Centers research plots, making stops along the way and explaining more about current projects including long cane raspberry production, tabletop-grown and high tunnel strawberries, hops, and more.
Easily the most popular attraction for the students, however, was the fish hatchery, where Research Assistant Paul O’Bryant educated students about the genetic research projects involving yellow perch and bluegill and allowed students to get an up-close view of the various fish species present in the hatchery and ponds.
“I loved seeing the lake sturgeons and the catfish ponds, I really learned a lot while he was here,” said sophomore Bodie Armstrong. “I even learned that you can use fish poop to grow lettuce in water!”
“It was great to see the enthusiasm on the faces of the students, as they learned more about the research that goes on here,” said South Centers Senior Event Coordinator Bridget Robertson. “We are making an effort to bring groups like this one onto our campus.”
Agriculture Education and Vet Science teacher Kristen Campbell called the experience “a fun filled, educational trip that the students will definitely remember” and even learned a thing or two herself.
“I found it amazing that the staff were harvesting strawberries in late March into early April. Some of the strawberries were grown in gutter systems in coconut hair,” she said. "We also got an up close look at some sturgeons that are around 30 years old, and learned that they can live to be 100 years old!”
“I would like to thank the South Center staff for allowing my students to tour the facility and learn about the research that they do at the facility.”
Any school or community groups interested in touring the South Centers should contact Robertson at 614-247-9757 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.