Gardening has a whole new look.

While outside gardens are always nice, there are new vertical gardens happening inside, without the sun,  and minus the dirt. It’s called hydroponics —  an extremely efficient, sustainable, compact, and successful way to garden. Some are even calling this, the future of gardening. It’s sweeping the nation, and moving into our education system.

Not to worry New Jersey teachers, you won’t have to look far to find everything you need for your home and classroom hydroponics needs. Let me introduce you to the hydroponics experts at  Cleatus Farms Nursery.

You might have already heard of them, since they have been serving the  lawn,  garden,  and outdoor needs of Bergen and Rockland counties since 1992.  They are half farm (in  Middletown, NY), and half storefront (Northvale, NJ), but ALL hydroponics specialists.

Cleatus Farms believes that the future of agriculture, conservation, and sustainability is in hydroponics- and they are not the only ones.

According to the Today Show that featured one of Cleatus’ hydroponics collaboration, hydroponics is a trend that is sweeping the nation. But if you ask John, one of the owners of Stemcarts (a sister company  of Cleatus Farms), he’ll tell you it’s not just a trend in homes and businesses, this is a trend reaching the education system as well- a trend that John and Cleatus Farms is ready to support.

You see, they discovered the value and efficiency of hydroponics in their research, and it changed the way that they reproduce plants on their farm and for their store forever. After such a high success rate, they brought the technology and resources to their storefront, stocking, creating, and selling everything one would need to set up a personal hydroponics system. A public education program easily followed in 2015, which teachers “gobbled” up according to the owners. This led to the creation of a science-technology-engineering, cart.

Introducing, Hydroponics Stem Carts — available through Cleatus Farms (information available  at Their mission is to “aim to help educators integrate the highly engaging STEM field of hydroponics into their classrooms and curriculum.”

And they are succeeding! These exciting carts are already in over two dozen schools, including Northvale Middle School, which was featured on PBS “Classroom Close Up.” And in my opinion, every educator needs to get a close up of these carts, so let me tell you about them.

Cleatus Farms Hydroponics Stemcarts are  conveniently compact,  measuring 2ft x 4 ft, and on wheels for easy transport.  They are available to teachers and schools in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

They come stocked with  everything teachers need to easily bring hydroponics  into the classroom- including two shelves with grow-lights, a seeder with heat mat, a floating raft, makerspace area, aerator, and a single outlet timer/powerstrip combo.

Stemcarts incorporates the three main styles of hydroponics (12 deep water culture sites, 16 sites for aeroponics root cloning, and a five plant aquaponics complete ecosystem using the nutrient cycle relationship between fish and plants).

This science lab includes room for students projects of small, medium, or even large plants. And, did I mention that all carts come with delivery, setup and an hour of one on one instruction for the teacher? Teachers and students will also enjoy the virtual field trip for up to 45 participants that accompanies each Stemcart. Stemcarts utilize Skype to bring Cleatus Farms hydroponic productions facility inside the classroom.

Students will get a walk through tour with a specialist who will demonstrate how the science of soilless gardening clones stock for nursery and vegetable production for the store.  These field trips come with pre-trip information and follow up questions (virtual field trips can be purchased separate from the cart for $299 for 45 participants).

Stemcarts come at the  entry level recommended for kindergarten through 4th grade at $800 per cart, or advanced recommended for 5th through 12th grades for $1670. You can also choose to have a custom made Stemcart built (prices vary).

If the cost of the Stemcarts seem outside of you classroom budget, you are not alone. Their website offers many grants and funding ideas (links at the bottom of the article). If hydroponics is the future of sustainable agriculture, than as teachers, this is something to learn about and share within our classrooms.

So check out the funding sites, and happy planting!

Sustainable New Jersey 





-Jessica Cicalese Kurtz

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