Skip to main content

Planting the Seeds for Tomorrow's STEAM Leaders

Posted by Lilia McFarland, New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Coordinator in Conservation Initiatives Research and Science
Feb 21, 2017
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center), helping a Jefferson Middle School student finish up the planting of “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” in a garden box, in The People's Garden at USDA's Whitten Building.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center), helps a Jefferson Middle School student finish up the planting of “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” in a garden box, in The People's Garden at USDA's Whitten Building. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Did you know that NASA has a mini veggie farm at the International Space Station that grows lettuce? Every day, ground-breaking scientific research is taking place to improve food production practices in order to feed people on Earth and in space.

Earlier this week in USDA’s People's Garden, local 4-H and FFA students gathered to plant sister seeds to lettuce grown on the International Space Station, which will be harvested in about a month. By getting their hands dirty, students were able to ask questions about what it takes to grow food under a variety of conditions. This is particularly important as our nation’s farmers and ranchers look to feed a growing world population.

The students heard from astronaut Cady Colman about how important it is to keep learning and exploring because the possibilities are out of this world.  And USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman to expand a Memorandum of Understanding that gives our students the tools they need from both USDA and NASA to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and agriculture.

USDA and NASA have many overlapping interests and feeding people is just one of them. In July, Deputy Secretary Harden and Dr. Newman met at NASA’s Ames Research Center to see how the two agencies can work together to deal with the ongoing impacts of climate change and drought. NASA and USDA have partnered to map Earth’s soil moisture from orbit which could provide a drought early-warning system to producers and improve weather and water availability forecasting in major cities, enabling us to better protect our food supply here on Earth.

With USDA and NASA working side by side, it is our hope that more young people will be exposed to the power of science and be inspired to solve some of the world's most pressing challenges. And if they get to play in the dirt while doing it—all the better.

Jefferson Middle School student Troy Durham II, (in orange jacket) is assisted by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Operations Program Specialist and Executive Master Gardner (blue shirt) while transplanting an “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” seedling grown from sister seeds to lettuce grown on the International Space Station, at an event in The People's Garden, at USDA's Whitten Building.
Jefferson Middle School student Troy Durham II, (in orange jacket) is assisted by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Operations Program Specialist and Executive Master Gardner (blue shirt) while transplanting an “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” seedling grown from sister seeds to lettuce grown on the International Space Station, at an event in The People's Garden, at USDA's Whitten Building. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.