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Article: JVS Alumni Teaches Agricultural Trend to Current Students

JVS Alumni Teaches Agricultural Trend to Current Students

Gregory Julius (Avon) and Paige Hicks (Brookside) places seed pods into the grow tables with Don Sabella looking on

Don Sabella loves what he does so much that he was excited to come back to the Lorain County JVS to share that knowledge with current 9th grade students. Sabella is a 2018 alumni of the Landscape and Greenhouse Management (LGM) program and is currently finishing his last semester at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI).

Sabella came back to the JVS to teach 9th grade students how to set up and maintain a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponic system that is new to one of their lab spaces this year. NFT describes how the nutrients are supplied to the plants, with a film at the bottom of the channel.

“It feels great to be back, I always love coming here,” said Sabella. “I enjoy educating the students in things in my field because I love what I do so much. After I graduate, I’m looking to get into a hydroponic facility to have the opportunity to work with hydroponic crops and growers because of the future growth in this area of the agricultural industry.”

Sabella discussed with the students what crops can grow through the hydroponic system, what some of the benefits are, and how it differs from regular production of vegetables.

“We planted basil, lettuce, mustard greens, cilantro, and parsley,” said McKenzie Langford, 9th grade Career Readiness student from Elyria.

“It will take about two weeks for small little seedlings to appear, and as long as they do everything like I showed them,” joked Sabella, “full crops should be ready in about five to six weeks.”

Langford is taking the lead on the grow table project and is enjoying the process so far. “Every morning I check to make sure the pH and Ec levels are where they need to be so that the plants grow properly. If the levels aren’t where they need to be, I know what to do to adjust them and get them to where they should be.”

Sabella plans to stop by a couple times in the next few weeks to check how things are going.

“In a system like this, it only takes two hours for the plants to die,” Sabella stated. “But as long as the pump is running, the lights are coming on from the timer and the students set the calibration of the solution right, then everything should run smoothly.” 

Having the opportunity to come back, share knowledge and bring awareness to not only the JVS Landscape and Greenhouse Management program but also the program back on the OSU ATI campus, is important to Sabella.

“I’m getting ready to graduate at the end of April with an Associate of Applied Science in Greenhouse and Nursery Management degree, and I owe that to the JVS,” Sabella shared with a smile. “It is because I attended this school, and excelled in my academics and the LGM program, that I was able to earn scholarships which gave me the opportunity to attend OSU ATI.”

“If I had not attended the JVS, I believe I would not have gone to college and would not be where I’m at today. The LGM program pretty much gave me everything and that is why I refer to it as one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.”

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