Tasty Tomatoes Year-Round

Ohio Career Tech Agriculture and Environmental Systems Content Standards
(Plant Science: Unit 7:  Plant Production and Management 7.4: Indicators 7.4.1 – 7.4.13) In this student activity, students will read and reflect upon the following benchmarks with hydroponically grown tomatoes as the case study:

•    Manage the growth of specific types of plants using specialized equipment.
•    Develop and evaluate a commercial plant production and management plan.
•    Develop and evaluate a commercial plant production and management plan.

The Article
•    Ask students to read the article titled “Tasty Tomatoes Year-Round” found in Our Ohio or online.

Discussion points
•    Wade Smith grows tomatoes hydroponically. Define hydroponics and explain what the media for planting tomatoes is in this situation. (Indicator 7.4.9)
•    Why do supermarket tomatoes often taste bland, according to the article? (7.4.13)
•    Smith is a “third generation tomato farmer.”  Approximately how many years has his family been growing tomatoes?
•    Discuss Smith’s statement, “Because the tomatoes were processed, the taste didn’t matter as much.”  Why do canneries not need tasty tomatoes? (7.4.13)
•    Where did Smith go to learn about hydroponics?  (7.4.4 – 7.4.7)
•    Describe what Smith’s greenhouse may look like, using the article for clues. For example, what may the “plants anchored in bags of sphagnum peat moss” look like? (7.4.7)
•    Explain the watering and nutrient adding process. (7.4.6; 7.4.12)
•    What are “suckers” on tomato plants and why must they be cut off? (7.4.10)
•    What pests and fungi must Wade Smith control?  Why? (7.4.11)
•    What is the top sensory factor alerting the grower that there may be a pest problem?
•    When are most traditionally grown tomatoes in Ohio ready for harvest, also known as in-season tomatoes? (7.4.13)
•    If tomatoes in Ohio are not ready for harvest, from what location do markets import tomatoes?
•    Identify Smith’s business plan for his hydroponically grown tomatoes. Do you think his plan is conservative, achievable, or overly optimistic? Explain your thoughts.

Science behind hydroponics
•    Research hydroponics to answer the following questions.
o    Do growers select different varieties of plants when they are growing using the hydroponic method? (7.4.5)
o    Is erosion a concern? (7.4.5)
o    How are abiotic and biotic factors manipulated in the hydroponic setting? (7.4.6)
o    Explain population rate, plant treatments, and type of planter options for hydroponics. (7.4.7)
o    What may the investment in technology and capital be for growers beginning to grow crops using the hydroponic method?
o    How does a grower know when his/her crop is ready for market? (7.4.13)

Extending your knowledge
•    According to the article, Ohio is the fourth largest producer of tomatoes in the United States. Research which states produce more tomatoes than Ohio.
•    What is the name of the largest ketchup processing plant in Fremont, Ohio?
•    Where in Ohio is the Tomato Festival held? Does the festival have a website? (Hint: http://www.reynoldsburgtomatofestival.org/)
•    The article mentions the importance of bees to Wade Smith’s farm. Explain what necessary function the bees play. What would Mr. Smith have to do for his plants to produce fruit in lieu of bees?
•    Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?

Hands on at Home or School
•    Create your own hydroponic system. There are kits and directions available on the Internet.  Simply Google “hydroponic kits.”
•    Discuss the different ways of completing a hydroponic system to grow plants.
•    What plants would grow well with the hydroponic method and what crops would not? (7.4.5)
•    Is the hydroponic method good for all crops and all sizes of farms?  Explain.
•    Define “organic.” Is Whitehouse Specialty Crops an organic production facility?  Why or why not?

Correlated English Language Arts Academic Content Standards
•    Use multiple resources to enhance comprehension of vocabulary. (Acquisition of Vocabulary F, 8-10; Acquisition of Vocabulary E, 11-12)
•    Apply knowledge of roots, affixes and phrases to aid understanding of content area vocabulary. (Acquisition of Vocabulary D, 11-12)
•    Produce functional documents that report, organize and convey information and ideas accurately, foresee readers’ problems or misunderstandings and that include formatting techniques that are user friendly. (Writing Applications C, 11-12)

Correlated Mathematics Academic Content Benchmarks
•    Construct convincing arguments based on analysis of data and interpretation of graphs. (Data Analysis and Probability F, 8-10)
•    Create and analyze tabular and graphical displays of data using appropriate tools, including spreadsheets and graphing calculators. (Data Analysis and Probability A, 11-12)
•    Design and perform a statistical experiment, simulation or study; collect and interpret data; and use descriptive statistics to communicate and support predictions and conclusions. (Data Analysis and Probability C, 11-12)
•    Locate and interpret mathematical information accurately, and communicate ideas, processes and solutions in a complete and easily understood manner. (Mathematical Processes H, 8-10)

Correlated Science Academic Content Benchmarks
•    Explain the flow of energy and the cycling of matter through biological and ecological systems (cellular, organismal and ecological). (Life Sciences D, 9-10)
•    Summarize the historical development of scientific theories and ideas within the study of life sciences. (Life Sciences G, 11-12)
•    Participate in and apply the processes of scientific investigation to create models and to design, conduct, evaluate and communicate the results of these investigations. (Scientific Inquiry A, 9-10)
•    Make appropriate choices when designing and participating in scientific investigations by using cognitive and manipulative skills when collecting data and formulating conclusions from the data. (Scientific Inquiry A, 11-12)

(All correlated Academic Content Benchmarks from ODE Career Tech Agriculture and Environmental Systems Content Standards document, 7.4, p. 128)

This student activity was prepared by Camille Kopczewski, who is coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Grove City. She is a former sixth grade social studies teacher for South-Western City Schools. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.