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After Drug Raids, 14 Schools in N.H. Reap Harvest of Hydroponic Equipment

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Convicted drug dealers in New Hampshire are unwittingly helping some of the state's high school students learn about agriculture.

Students at 14 New Hampshire high schools are using state-of-the-art hydroponic equipment to grow tomatoes, lettuce, and basil.

The equipment was once used by drug dealers to grow marijuana but was donated to the schools as part of a federal program.

The equipment, worth several thousand dollars, was seized during three federal drug raids in the state.

Getting Approval

Raymond Gagnon, a U.S. marshal in New Hampshire and a former teacher, is behind the giveaway program, which is believed to be the first of its kind.

For more than three years Mr. Gagnon had been waiting to come across people growing marijuana using the system, which allows plants to be grown indoors without soil.

The plants are grown in trays filled with water and nutrients. There are no insects or soil bacteria, and because the plants are indoors, they can be grown year-round.

People illegally growing marijuana are especially drawn to the systems, officials with the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Learning To Grow

Before giving away any seized equipment to schools, Mr. Gagnon had to get approval from the U.S. departments of Education and Agriculture.

Since the first six teachers received equipment last November, about $24,000 worth of such supplies have been handed out to the schools.

Schools have received hydroponic tables, water pumps, heating lamps, timers, generators, and even nutrients to feed the plants.

What they didn't receive was information on how to put the complicated equipment together or how to use it.

"I didn't know how it ran," said Carol Ward, the agriculture teacher at Pembroke Academy, a public high school in Pembroke.

"The students knew more than I did," Ms. Ward said.

A student at the school eventually assembled the system by trial and error.

Another school in the state has decided to combine its new horticultural equipment with a fish farm and will recycle the same water.

The biology department will use the system for study, and the culinary department will cook what the students grow.

Stan Kalishman, a teacher at Dover (N.H.) High School, said he believes the experience could be valuable for pupils.

"We thought this could be a start for kids--spark some interest," Mr. Kalishman said.

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