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Food for Thought: Culinary Class Growing Hydroponic Produce

culinary hydroponic photo

MICHIGAN CITY, IN – September 29, 2022
— Culinary instructors at the La Porte County Career and Technical Education program are taking a new approach to teach students about the natural ingredients they use in their recipes.

A new hydroponic gardening system was recently installed in the Career Café kitchens located at the Elston Building. This innovative approach to gardening allows students to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables – without soil – in a classroom setting using a special mineral nutrient solution.

Chef Marcello Marino, one of two Culinary instructors at the A.K. Smith Career Center, is excited to introduce this farm-to-table philosophy to his students, who are now seeing the process from beginning to end. Using this method of growing food by controlling the environment, temperature, and nutrients a plant receives, students are responsible for planting, nurturing, and growing produce to ultimately use in the classroom.


Basil is the students’ first crop and is almost ready for harvest. This herb will be integrated into recipes for in-class cooking. Next up will be peppers and a variety of lettuces.

“We are blessed to have kids who are interested in culinary arts, what they eat, and what they put on the table,” Marino said. “This exposes students to something new, and that is what education is all about. There are so many career options to choose from in the culinary world - students could eventually work in cooking, farming, or even hydroponic technology. This experience is invaluable.”

About 40 high school students from La Porte County are currently enrolled in the Culinary Program at A.K. Smith, and at least one is considering a future career as a farmer, Marino said.

The new hydroponic farm engages students in the Culinary program by requiring them to be responsible for monitoring and watering the plants. Part of the curriculum also includes learning the advantages, disadvantages, and history of hydroponics, said Delincia Smith, Director of the La Porte County CTE program.

“This encourages students to reflect on the source of their daily food and the many hands that help produce a single meal,” she said.

More information about the Culinary Arts program is available by visiting