Sustainable hydroponic farming as a viable career path for the youth in Butler County Missouri

Progress report for YENC20-145

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2020: $4,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Missouri Extension
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Manager:
Juan Cabrera-Garcia
University of Missouri Extension
Project Co-Managers:
Brad Coleman
University of Missouri Extension in Iron County
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Project Information


Agronomic crop farmers in southeast Missouri want to diversify their crops due to shrinking margins and instability with prices. Hydroponic crops are a sustainable alternative because they have year–round production, use less resources, have higher yields per area, have lower environmental risks, are well suited for urban agriculture, and are profitable. This project aims to educate the next generation of farmers that will cover the knowledge gaps and incentivize the creation of the infrastructure required to support this emerging new sector. We will use a hands–on approach to teach students about sustainable hydroponic farming as a viable career path.

Project Objectives:
  1. Increase high school student’s knowledge and interest in sustainable hydroponic crop production through hands-on lectures with a commercial farmer, extension specialists, and nutrition program associates.
  2. Show students the potential of sustainable hydroponic farming as a viable career path.
  3. Develop student’s skill through hands-on experience with different hydroponic systems.
  4. Incentivize healthy eating habits by showing students how to cook, process, and consume hydroponic crops.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Charlie Clodfelter (Educator)
  • Steve Hamra

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 On-farm demonstrations
2 Tours
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Other educational activities: Hydroponic demonstration was presented at Ecosystem Science Day at Poplar Bluff Middle School for 317 youth on December 10, 2021.

Participation Summary:

2 Farmers/ranchers
317 Youth
5 Educators
2 Other adults
Education/outreach description:

Due to pandemic, there are still restrictions on some schools.  Two schools have agreed to let us come in January and February 2022 on Thursdays to present the classes. 

Most presenters have agreed to participating.  Each class will have 30 minutes of lecture followed by hands-on activities (totaling 90 minutes of class time) including the building of the hydroponic systems.

Video presentations are done. Each ag teacher will get a USB flash drive and kits to build and operate a Dutch bucket, NFT, and floating raft hydroponic system.  Hydroponic systems are finished and ready to go into both schools.  Class size is approximated 25 youth.

We have had a challenge finding a farmer/grower who can talk about and show hydroponic systems growing plants (non-hemp) for class #5.  We are still looking for someone – we will broaden our search in the next several weeks.

Each ag teacher will get a USB flash drive and kits to build and operate a Dutch bucket, NFT, and floating raft hydroponic system. The flash drive will contain videos of class recordings and instructions on how to build and set up the different hydroponic systems. In addition to that the drive will have interviews with hydroponic farm owners and a tour to the greenhouses. We will ask the teacher to make tests before and after to gauge knowledge gains and ask students to complete a survey to evaluate the quality and observe the impact of the program.


  1. Introduction to sustainable hydroponic crop production.
  2. Managing hydroponic crops (environment and nutrient solutions.
  3. Monitoring and managing diseases, pests, and environmental stress.
  4. Harvest: now what? (post-harvest handling and food safety, health benefits of crops, and how to consume crops)
  5. Career opportunities: beginning a business, working for a commercial greenhouse, or where to study to develop skills

Video recordings:

  1. Hydroponic systems, components, and materials: Show the different systems (diagrams) and talk about initial water quality, what pumps to avoid, how to choose meters, and propagating materials.
  2. Setting up an NFT hydroponic system.
  3. Setting up a DWC hydroponic system.
  4. Setting up a Dutch bucket system.
  5. Farm tours
  6. Interviews with farmer growers. Focus on careers and entrepreneurship opportunities.


All the materials needed for the kits are purchased.

 NFT hydroponic system materialsMaterials for hydroponic kitspH and EC meters

The hydroponic systems were set up and demonstrated for an ecosystem Science Day at Poplar Bluff Middle School for 317 youth.  Ten-minute presentations were made 15 times to reach all the youth.


Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.