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School cafeterias get hydroponic produce
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This year in the Dawson County School System an emphasis is being placed on nutrition.

And one area in particularthe schools lettuce.

The school system entered into a partnership this year with Gilmer and Fannin counties to purchase hydroponically grown lettuce from Gabes Greens in McCaysville.

There are two big advantages to purchasing and eating hydoponically grown lettuce, according to Gabe Montgomery, the Gabe of Gabes Greens. Its packed with nutrients, Montgomery said. It doesnt have to compete with other plants in the fieldso it gets a lot of the nutrients we want it to get.

The other advantage is the season in which the lettuce can be grown -- which is anytime of year. Theres a season for ground growing, but hydroponically theres not, Montgomery said.

Hydroponically vegetables are grown without soil, in water.

Growth time also is an advantage to the lettuceheads can be grown in about six weeks. The heads of lettuce will stay fresh for up to three weeks at a time.

Robinson Elementary Cafeteria Manager Kim Whitmire said she is excited to serve up the first delivery of romaine lettuce she received in late September. Its beautiful and its very, very tasty. Well use it in tossed salads, and well use it when we have lettuce and tomatoes for hamburgers.

School nutrition Director Linda Byrd said Gabes Greens will be delivering a variety of lettuces to the schools all year long. Im so excited about it, Byrd said. It is a great benefit to the children for us to be able to purchase locally grown romaine lettuce because it has a higher nutrient content; it is pesticide and herbicide free; it is available year round, and it is harvested daily.

According to Byrd, the new USDA guidelines for school meals require a dark leafy green to be served at lunch. The romaine lettuce is one of the acceptable greens that most students will choose to eat at lunch, she said.

The Dawson County School system serves 2,800 students each day.