In fact, Haire-Joshu’s SLU study found preschoolers were more than twice as likely to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily than their non-gardening peers.
Good nutrition is only one of the many benefits of gardening as a family. Gardening offers many lessons.
There’s the science of working with plants, soil and water and seeing firsthand how the seasons, weather, pests and beneficial insects play a role in plant development.
Kids learn responsibility by caring for living plants, and patience waiting for seeds, flowers, and produce to develop.
A successful garden creates confidence, while unsatisfactory results can provide a lesson in coping with disappointment and then problem-solving to search for better gardening techniques.
Getting the family into the garden also provides a healthy dose of exercise by working the major muscle groups. For example, 30 minutes of raking leaves typically burns 162 calories, weeding or mowing with a power mower burns 182 calories, turning a compost pile burns 250 calories, and double-digging your garden soil burns 344 calories.
If you want to expend less energy – saving it for other activities – and use much less water, space and nutrients, try Tower Gardening!
When you combine education, job training and entrepreneurial skills, food production, and community enhancement, and throw in a little food activism and awareness of the health/diet connection, great things can happen, as educator and inspirational community activist Stephen Ritz has shown.
It’s one thing to take kids from average middle class backgrounds, living in suburbia, and introduce them to gardening and food production as an adjunct to their classroom experience, but it’s another thing entirely to do so in the south Bronx, where kids live in one of the poorest, most disadvantaged, communities in the US. But thanks to the hard work and dedication of people such as Ritz, and his Green Bronx Machine, at-risk youth are learning to not only grow vegetables and herbs right in their neighborhoods and classrooms, but are also gaining valuable experience, training, and job skills by working in an up-and-coming industry, urban farming.
When we learned about the work being done by Ritz and his programs, and how learning about caring for plants and growing food for their classmates and neighbors has led to a much brighter future for everyone involved, what struck us was that, if he can do it in the south Bronx, then those of us living and working in other, more affluent or progressive, areas, can do it as well, helping to grow better outcomes and build stronger and more resilient communities.
“Green Bronx Machine was born of the belief that we are all AMER-I-CANS! Together, we can grow, re-use resources and recycle our way into new and healthy ways of living; complete with self sustaining local economic engines. Inclusively and collectively, each and every member of our society offers a unique perspective with unlimited potential. Together, we can move those who are “apart from” society to become “part of” the driving force behind new solutions benefiting all of us.”
The idea for the Green Bronx Machine came, as many ventures do, from an unexpected angle, when someone sent Ritz a box of daffodil bulbs, which neither he (not being a gardener), nor his kids, knew what to do with. After being stuck behind a radiator in his classroom, for lack of a better place to put them, the daffodils began growing and blooming, at which point the kids in his class got some wild ideas about what to do with them (the boys wanted to give them to the girls for favors, and the girls wanted to give them to other girls, and all of the kids wanted to sell them for money).
Ritz and his class ended up cleaning up a struggling community garden, and planting some 15,000 daffodil bulbs there, which made him realize that he was onto something good, and was the start to his Green Teen Project. An effort by Ritz’ classroom to grow more plants and food in a vacant lot, while a worthwhile endeavor, was fraught with difficulties, as the produce tended to disappear when it was ripe, but a connection he made with people at Green Living Technologies, which used ‘living walls’ grown with LED lights, gave him the ability to move these gardens inside the classrooms and schools, where they could grow food, as well as hope, for these kids.
His group of students, most of whom were marginal or homeless students with criminal backgrounds or learning disabilities, or both, ended up becoming more engaged in school, and wanting to come to class, and the most promising of them were able to get training and be certified in urban farming technology and green building, which led them to taking on private commissions for green walls and roofs.
By collaborating with other local organizations, the Green Bronx Machine has now built over 100 school gardens around New York, which produce food for not only school cafeterias, but also for food pantries and shelters, while also teaching the students about science and math and business, and giving them a leg up for their own future.
Part of what we find inspiring about the story of the Green Bronx Machine, other than the obvious benefits of engaging kids in growing their own food, is that it’s not a top-down solution that imposes a solution from the outside, but rather an inclusive and bottom-up initiative that can bring people together for the common good. As Ritz says, it’s an “us” moment.
“We can come together around this. This is an “us” moment. As a parent, local resident, educator, and citizen, the intention behind all I do is simple: It is easier to raise healthy children than to fix broken men.”
Here’s Ritz’ inspiring talk at our recent Juice Plus+ Conference, which I dare you to watch without getting goosebumps and running right out and starting your own version of this transformational program in your own neighborhood!
As you saw in that video, Ritz has embrace our Tower Garden technology. Why don’t you?!
This is a guest post by Tim Blank, Founder and CEO, Future Growing LLC
Today, I would like to share with you the story of how Niels Thorlaksson, an amazing Tower Garden farmer in Santa Barbara, transformed his life from a job that he was not passionate about to living his dream of growing food for the masses with the most energy-efficient and sustainable farming method on the planet. With the severe drought in California, more farmers are looking for similar sustainable, earth friendly growing solutions—and Tower Garden vertical food farming technology,which uses 90 percent less water on 90 percent land, provides that chemical-free solution for feeding Americans, today and into the future.
Here is Niels’ story, in his own words: “My Dad, Erik, has always been an avid gardener, which started my interest in growing my own fruits and vegetables when I was just a little kid. We would plant a garden at home with tomatoes, squash, and zucchini, to name just a few. It was fun eating fresh produce that we had grown, and we enjoyed sharing our harvest with friends too. Growing up, we spent our Saturday mornings visiting the local farmers’ market. I loved trying all the cool local foods, and seeing new offerings with each season. These values of growing my own food and supporting local farmers stuck with me and are still very important to me.
For the past three years, I had been working for a large company in downtown Los Angeles. I realized that my job wasn’t who I was or what I stood for. I knew that I wanted to be involved with something that was making a bigger impact on our world, and do something I really loved. But I had no idea what it was going to be.
This realization coincided with my introduction to the Tower Garden. I was fascinated by the technology and loved the ability to save significant water, space and time while growing. My family and I decided to purchase one Tower Garden, and we set it up next to our tomato and squash garden in the back yard.
However, I soon learned that Tower Gardens were being used for much more than for home growers. I found out that they are being used for commercial food production to support the sustainable and local food movements. I wanted to see how it worked with my own eyes, so I went on tours of several Tower Garden farms.
Seeing how the Tower Gardens can directly impact people’s lives in such a positive way was the final piece of the puzzle. I helped set up several small farms in southern California, and saw that other people shared my values. This is when I decided I wanted to get involved and start a project of my own.
Land is extremely expensive in my area, so I currently have 100 Tower Gardens in my own back yard. Watering grass has given way to watering food, which is grown and used locally. My part-time hobby expanded my vision and passion for local growing, in what has become a successful, full-time business.
I am blessed to be working with some of the top restaurants in Santa Barbara region, and my five-star produce undoubtedly keeps me in that position. I work directly with the chefs to deliver exactly what they want to see on their menus. I can grow special varieties they can’t find in farmers’ markets. When I get my orders, I can deliver them the same day, since most of the restaurants are a few minutes away from my farm in downtown Santa Barbara. In fact, I am the closest farm to downtown!
I hope our Tower Garden farm will inspire people to change the way they think about the food they eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced. With many of the problems we are facing in the future, I believe the Tower Garden is essential to improving the way we access our food.”
Everyone at Future Growing agrees with Niels that the vertical aeroponic Tower Garden growing system is necessary to support the populations of today and the future. With its recirculating water system, the Tower Garden technology saves an incredible amount of time, water, and energy and—most importantly—produces the best-tasting, sustainable produce around. I commend Niels, along with all the other Future Growing farmers, for following their passion and building a business that not only improves their lives, but also the lives of everyone around them and the planet.
Comparing traditional growing (with near perfect conditions) to Tower Garden growing, the researchers “compared the product yield, total phenolics, total flavonoids, and antioxidant properties in different leafy vegetables/herbs (basil, chard, parsley, and red kale) and fruit crops (bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and squash) grown in aeroponic growing systems (AG – Tower Garden) and in the field (FG). An average increase of about 19%, 8%, 65%, 21%, 53%, 35%, 7%, and 50% in the yield was recorded for basil, chard, red kale, parsley, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and squash, respectively, when grown in aeroponic systems, compared to that grown in the soil. Antioxidant properties of AG and FG crops were evaluated using 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DDPH) and cellular antioxidant (CAA) assays. In general, the study shows that the plants grown in the aeroponic system had a higher yield and comparable phenolics, flavonoids, and antioxidant properties as compared to those grown in the soil.”
The study also confirmed that the Tower Gardens used less than 10% of the water and nutrients required by traditional growing methods.
3. People around the country are discovering Tower Garden.
With new Tower Gardeners in Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, Oklahoma, Montana, Arizona, Hawaii and more (just about every state in fact), the number of people growing the fun and simple way is steadily increasing throughout the US.
We expect to see that steady pace increase as the word spreads and more people see what is possible with Tower Garden.
4. Gardening year-round is getting easier.
With the help of small greenhouses and/or Tower Garden Grow Lights, year-round growing has become possible for many of us living in areas with cold climates. We live in Colorado and last winter we had two Tower Gardens giving us a harvest while living in our garage.
5. Tower Garden can change lives.
We were moved and inspired by the many Tower Garden stories. It’s been amazing to see all the positive effects Tower Garden has had on families nation-wide.
6. Tower Gardens produce A LOT.
We knew Tower Garden is capable of producing big yields faster than is possible with a soil garden. But the photos of massive Tower Garden harvests shared on Facebook impressed us on a regular basis.
A study last summer by the University of Mississippi will be published soon, showing a 30% greater yield from the Tower Garden compared to traditional growing methods, together with significant increases in the nutritional value of the produce grown.
Jake Kelly is an extraordinary young woman; she has become an important part of the local food scene in Santa Barbara, Calif. If you live in Santa Barbara and want to buy local food, you can find Jake and her delicious, chemical-free local produce at the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Goleta from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Chapala Gardens is also open for shopping on Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and on Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Chapala Gardens’ rooftop farm in Santa Barbara, CA. Almost a ton of produce can be harvested annually from this small rooftop.
Now in its second year of operation, Chapala Gardens has been extraordinarily successful in making local, healthy, chemical-free, low-carbon footprint food readily available to its friends and neighbors in Santa Barbara.
Behind every successful “green” business is a person with a passion, and that is certainly true for 25-year-old Jake Kelly, the head grower for Chapala Gardens. Jake has been passionate about growing healthy food since she was young girl. Jake was recently nominated for Young Female Entrepreneur 2013 in Santa Barbara CA.
Now, Jake’s rooftop farm is home to 40 commercial Tower Gardens® with 44 plants per tower.
Jake’s successful business has 3 main areas of focus:
Providing food for the community through the local farmers market.
Leading a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
Educating and training people how to do the same thing right in their own back yard.
At a recent event, Jake shared, “We are simply running out of water in California and no one knows what to do! I do know what to do, and I have a solution. I can grow an enormous amount of plants vertically on my rooftop and patio with as little as five percent of the water as the farmers up the road. I don’t use contaminated water, herbicides, or harmful chemicals. My food is nutrient-dense, clean, and free of harmful pathogens. We can all do this; it is really simple and it’s the right thing to do!”