‘Future of Food’ Urban Farming Field Trip to Explore Urban Ag Endeavors in Inland SoCal

Slated for Saturday, May 20, 2017 the ‘Future of Food – Urban Farming Field Trip’ will visit a series of innovative urban farming ventures in Inland Southern California that have emerged to grow the local food marketplace, increase food access, educate local communities, advocate for food equity, and improve health and nutrition. The field trip hosted by Seedstock, a social venture that seeks to foster the development of sustainable local food systems, will also include lectures from experts in urban farming.

The tour is the third in a series of Seedstock ‘Future of Food’ field trips that was recently launched to facilitate the exploration of food system innovations that are generating economic and community capital.

Early Bird Discount Tickets are available for a limited time, so grab your tickets before it’s too late!

Seedstock Future of Food Urban Farming Field Trip

**Profit generated from the trip will be donated to the participating organizations below**

Scheduled Field Trips Stops include:

  • Sarvodaya Farms is the educational, community-based urban farming initiative of The Growing Club, based in the Pomona Valley of California. Through this initiative, The Growing Club seeks to demonstrate how urban farms can be centers of social, economic, and ecological regeneration and healing in (sub)urban centers. The farm’s goal is to educate the community about regenerative urban farming through its farmer training program, community events, and workshops.
  • Huerta del Valle operates a 62 family community garden and 2.5 acre urban farm in Ontario. Its mission is to create healthy food access for low-income community members, create community empowerment through food, create job opportunities and educate community members about sustainable agriculture. Huerta’s overarching goal is to provide all 160,000 people in the city of Ontario with accessible organic food.
  • Amy’s Farm is a real, working polycultural farm focusing on sustainable, organic methods to farming. The farm provides fresh produce to the local community and offers education with hands-on, guided tours to visitors of all ages through its educational 501c3 non-profit organization. Amy’s Farm was founded in an effort to provide residents of San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles Counties and surrounding areas the opportunity to visit and experience a true operating urban farm.

Confirmed Speakers include:

On Rich Soil Long Since Forgotten, an Urban Farm Rises to Reconnect Region to its Agricultural Roots

elliott kuhn founder of cottonwood urban farm in san fernando valley california

Elliott Kuhn, founder of Panorama City, CA-based Cottonwood Urban Farm. Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Urban Farm.

California’s San Fernando Valley, located in Los Angeles County, was once well known for its rich croplands and farming communities. From its founding in 1874 until the mid 1920s, an abundance of fruit orchards, cattle and sheep ranches, and large-scale wheat farms made agriculture the valley’s biggest industry. However, as a result of the arrival of affordable automobiles and rise of the aircraft and motion picture industries, urban development driven by a population boom encroached upon agriculture and the glory days of food production in the San Fernando Valley came to an end.

In San Fernando Valley today, however, on a formerly vacant plot of land a small urban farm has emerged to help reconnect the region to its agricultural roots. Founded in 2011 in Panorama City by Elliott Kuhn, Cottonwood Urban Farm is a sustainable farming venture that not only offers a reliable source of locally grown fruits and vegetable to area restaurants, chefs, and community members, but also functions as an educational resource for the community.  Read more

seedstock future of food field trip growing experience urban farm-min

‘Future of Food’ Field Trip Explores Commercial and Community Driven Urban Farms in Los Angeles, CA

seedstock future of food field trip usc teaching garden

Attendees of the Seedstock ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’ at USC Teaching Garden, learning about the farm’s aeroponics operations from LA Urban Farms’s Wendy Coleman and Niels Thorlaksson. Photo credit: Robert Puro, Seedstock.

On Friday, January 27, Seedstock hosted the inaugural ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’, which provided attendees an excursion into the diversity of urban farming and state-of-the-art hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic agriculture operations in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S. The sold out tour treated participants to lectures and sessions from pioneering farmers who are embracing innovative business models and growing systems to both increase food security and take advantage of the escalating demand for local food.

The tour kicked off with a stop at The USC Teaching Garden, a joint venture between L.A. Urban Farms and USC Hospitality, which utilizes aeroponic tower gardens to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The garden was established to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability. Attendees heard from Chef Eric Ernest, Executive Chef of USC Hospitality, discuss the economic viability of the garden. Chef Ernest noted that the garden is not just for show, and that its 90 aeroponic garden towers grow enough food for campus retail units to break even each year. “The garden is about connecting chef and customer,” said Chef Ernest. We also heard from L.A. Urban Farms founder Wendy Coleman, and partner Niels Thorlaksson, discuss the technical details of the farm, its water usage, and maintenance requirements. Thorlaksson explained that each aeroponic garden tower utilizes 5 – 10 gallons of water per week. Read more

On Land Once Occupied by a Tomato Cannery an Agrihood Rises to Grow New Farmers and Feed a Community

The Cannery, a farm-to-table housing development in Davis, California, is the first agrihood of its kind in California. With its own urban farm and small orchard, the unique housing development can offer its residents fresh, hyperlocal produce as well as pastured chickens and eggs.

The land for The Cannery, aptly named because it was once the site of a tomato cannery, was sold to The New Home Company by ConAgra. The City of Davis has a rule that if developmental land borders agricultural land, then a 300-foot buffer is required. In this case, the buffer was about seven acres in total. Instead of opting for a plain green space, though, the developers were attracted to the idea of creating a working farm on the land. Once the City of Davis accepted its proposal, the company turned to the Center for Land-Based Learning to plan, develop, and run the farm. It has taken over six years to get to the point where the farm is now operational. Read more

SoCal Urban Farming Org Increases Supply of Fresh Produce to Homeless Shelter by Healing Soil and Residents

GrowGood Urban Farm Bell California employee Shelter resident

Velva, an employee of GrowGood, a CA-based nonprofit that has been working with the Salvation Army since 2011 to develop a garden-based program for the residents of the Bell Shelter that uses healthy food and gardening as a catalyst for healing. (Photo courtesy of GrowGood. Photo credit: Amy Gordon.)

Prior to the establishment of the GrowGood urban farm on a lot across the way from the Salvation Army Bell Shelter located in Bell, CA, the shelter, which serves nearly 6,000 meals per week, incorporated very little fresh produce into its menu.

“They were spending cents per meal on fresh produce. Food was donated, so no one was going hungry; but the nutritional quality was often low,” says Brad Pregerson, co-founder of GrowGood, a CA-based nonprofit that has been working with the shelter since 2011 to develop a garden-based program to not only increase the supply of fresh produce to the shelter, but also to provide its residents with meaningful work and act as catalyst for healing.

The Salvation Army Bell Shelter, which opened in 1988, was established with help from Pregerson’s grandfather, Harry, a federal judge and veteran, who perceived the dire need to provide housing for the growing Read more

SoCal University’s Aeroponic Garden Challenges Food System Status Quo

A new teaching garden at the University of Southern California uses aeroponics to grows its fruits, vegetables and herbs. Photo courtesy Erika Chesley/USC Auxiliary Services

A new teaching garden at the University of Southern California uses aeroponics to grows its fruits, vegetables and herbs. Photo courtesy Erika Chesley/USC Auxiliary Services

A prominent university in Southern California is utilizing aeroponics to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The University of Southern California (USC) Teaching Garden was established this spring to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability.

The garden utilizes aeroponic towers to produce chemical-free fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers without traditional soil growing media. Instead, plant roots are sprayed with nutrient-rich water at regular intervals to provide nourishment. The aeroponic towers at USC’s facility come from LA Urban Farms, which utilizes patented Tower Garden technology.

Each aeroponic tower is made with food-grade plastic, has room for a nutrient-rich mineral solution at its base, and holds up to 44 plants. Using this method, the project is able to raise more than 2,640 plants in just 1,200 square feet with 90 percent less water than a conventional produce operation, a boon for a drought-prone megalopolis like Los Angeles. And since growing takes place vertically, land use is kept to a minimum.


If you are going to be in the Southern California area, the Seedstock ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’ will be visiting the garden on January 27, 2017 as part of its tour. Learn more and register here: http://seedstockurbanag.eventbrite.com


USC is the first university in the United States to utilize an aeroponic garden of this scale.

The project was spearhead by the university’s Executive Chef, Eric Ernest.

“This is a space we are co-creating together to help people understand food and food systems,” Ernest says. “We teach chefs about biodiversity and about how things are grown for different flavor experiences.”

Of course, the aeroponically-grown produce is also meant for consumption. The garden currently produces heirloom lettuces, watercress, arugula, mustard greens, kale, tomatoes, Swiss chard, snap peas, several varieties of peppers, and more, all from organic seed. Some of the microgreens are delivered in living form on grow-tables for use by chefs.

“Produce from this garden is grown by chefs for chefs,” Ernest says. “It starts a conversation and creates collaboration, and defines super-premium quality.”

Ernest says the USC Teaching Garden is a small-scale farm-to-fork effort and acknowledges that it will not make a significant direct impact on the broader food system.

“This does not change the food system on a global scale,” he says. “But we want to challenge food systems and enhance the conversation. The idea is to look for a way to challenge the status quo. Everything has to equal flavor.”

But because USC is an influential institution of higher learning, Ernest believes students who learn from and are influenced by the Teaching Garden will ultimately be the ones to foment change.

“We’re leveraging a unique portion of the university to advance lifelong food choices among students who will become decision makers,” he says.

Even though he knows food isn’t the university’s primary mission, Ernest notes that intersections exist between food and numerous other academic disciplines. This is one of the main reasons he pushed for creation of the USC Teaching Garden.

“It offers a bridge from academics to dining services,” he says. “Our goals are to use the garden to teach, cultivate knowledge, and spread this knowledge organically.”

Beyond education, the main objective of the Teaching Garden is supplying high quality produce to the university community.

“It’s all about an experience for our guests at the university and at the hotel and campus restaurants,” Ernest says. “We’re world-class chefs making world-class food. As long as we advance that agenda, everything else will fall into place.”


If you are going to be in the Southern California area, the Seedstock ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’ will be visiting the garden on January 27, 2017 as part of its tour. Learn more and register here: http://seedstockurbanag.eventbrite.com

‘Future of Food: Urban Ag Field Trip’ to Explore Urban Farming Operations in L.A. County

Urban agriculture ventures of all different stripes – from commercial hydroponic enterprises and rooftop aeroponic farms to community gardens planted atop formerly vacant lots – are not only disrupting the food system, but also generating community and economic capital.

To give you an up close and personal look at a series of innovative urban farming operations that have emerged to tackle challenges to food access, meet marketplace demand for local food, and increase food security, Seedstock has put together the ‘Future of Food – Urban Ag Field Trip’.

future-of-food-urban-farm-field-trip-los-angeles

Slated for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the community and economic development potential of urban farming. Tour stops include the USC Teaching Garden, Local Roots Farms, and The Growing Experience.

Scheduled for Friday, January 27, 2017, the field trip will look at the impact of urban farming in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, and include lectures on such topics as the past, present, and future of urban agriculture, vertical farming, and sourcing local food from urban farms.

Spots on the field trip are limited, and it will sell out. So grab your Early Bird Tickets before it’s too late!

Scheduled Field Trips Stops include:

  • The USC Teaching Garden is utilizing aeroponics to challenge the food systems status quo on campus. The University of Southern California (USC) Teaching Garden was established this spring to supply fresh produce to the university’s on-campus restaurants, dining halls, catering services, and hotel, while also teaching students and staff about flavor and sustainability. The garden utilizes aeroponic towers to produce chemical-free fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers without traditional soil growing media.
  • Local Roots Farms is an indoor vertical farming company based in Los Angeles that designs, builds, deploys, and operates controlled environment farms. Situated in shipping containers, the farms (called TerraFarms) grow with up to 99% less water, 365 days a year, pesticide and herbicide free, and with absolute consistency in production. Their plug and play form provides an innovative solution to the retail and foodservice sectors by greatly reducing supply-chain risks such as price volatility and food safety exposure.
  • The Growing Experience (TGE) is a seven-acre urban farm in North Long Beach that is located on a previously vacant lot. TGE is unique in that it is owned and operated by the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA), which manages 3,229 units of public and other affordable housing for the county’s Public Housing program. The urban farm utilizes traditional as well as aquaponics growing systems to help meet the needs of the community by increasing access to healthy foods.

Register Now for Early Bird Tickets!

http://seedstockurbanag.eventbrite.com

Select Confirmed Speakers include:

  • Rachel Surls – Sustainable Food Systems Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension and co-author of the book ‘From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles’.
  • Erik Oberholtzer – Co-founder and CEO of Tender Greens
  • Chef Eric Ernest – Executive Chef of USC Hospitality

farm-to-fork lunch hosted by Local Roots Farms featuring lettuce grown on site in the company’s TerraFarms will be provided by lunch sponsor:

From Lima Beans to City Hall: A Los Angeles Couple Brings Food and Beauty to Local Neighborhoods

Jason Wood and Emily Gleicher run Farm LA, Photo courtesy of Emily Gleicher.

Jason Wood and Emily Gleicher run Farm LA, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that converts underutilized parcels of land into vibrant urban farms. Photo credit: Dan Fujiwara.

A mutual passion for gardening and supporting underserved communities were the motivations behind the conception of Farm LA, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization geared toward converting dilapidated and underutilized parcels of land for urban farming.

Emily Gleicher, a freelance producer for design and animation projects, and Jason Wood, a former commercial diver who now works as an electrician and framer in construction, founded Farm LA after a non-traditional gift sparked their interests.

“For Valentine’s Day, Jay found these lima bean plants at CVS that sprout out and say ‘I Love You,’” says Gleicher. “We had already become very passionate about gardening… so the lima beans took off, and we all of a sudden had lima bean plants all over our house. That is where our love for gardening and lima beans started.”

Soon after, the young couple started looking at properties around Los Angeles for fun in the event they decided to build a small house somewhere. Along the way, they began stumbling across run-down properties of various sizes around the city and began inquiring about what it would take to gain access to them. What they discovered were numerous barricades that hindered development.

Most of the properties Gleicher and Wood saw were on hillsides or narrow streets in low-income communities. There were no foundation structures in place or evidence of previous use.

“Once we became aware of all of this land, we wanted to do something to beautify it and that we were passionate about,” Wood says.

“We wanted to do something that could inspire the neighborhoods and maybe leave a cool legacy behind that we were proud of,” Gleicher adds. “We thought, what if we became a charity and got grants to turn these properties into beautiful, weird hillside gardens… people go hungry, and there are food deserts and health problems. It could solve a lot.”

Farm LA became a 501(c)(3) non-profit shortly after, but the organization officially launched May 1, 2015. Since that time, Gleicher and Wood have worked to promote and support the mission of Farm LA by building small public sidewalk gardens in rundown curbside plots around different Los Angeles communities. Currently, the organization has 11 of these plots, mostly located on the east side of Los Angeles.

“We’re still trying to grasp one of the larger overgrown properties, but you don’t need a permit or anything too extravagant to garden in the curbside plots,” says Wood. “It’s a great way to get our name out there and really inspire people. We are actually producing food on them, and people are taking it.”

Two of these gardens have been certified by LA County as urban gardens, and Farm LA will begin prepping and selling lima bean kits from these gardens this December. Although these are the only certified plots, all of Farm LA’s gardens are fortified with organic matter to enrich the soil.

The upkeep and timely harvesting of the curbside plots is made possible with the help of dedicated and passionate volunteers. Over the past two years, the organization has been able to generate a large volunteer base and now boasts 500 subscribers to its newsletter. Some of these volunteers are people who Gleicher and Wood met as part of their certification classes for the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative, a four-session program for beginning gardeners run by the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The Victory Garden program nurtured the already budding passion for gardening in both Wood and Gleicher and provided them with the proper tools and knowledge to not only conceive Farm LA, but also advocate for more opportunities for urban farm development and policies from the city. Part of this work includes working with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC) to help champion Assembly Bill (AB) 551, which empowers California cities and counties to create policies in support of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones, according to information provided on the LAFPC website.

The bill aligns with Farm LA’s mission of producing healthy, locally grown food in areas that are food deserts using sustainable processes and technologies. Land owners within the incentive zones can receive a significant reduction in their property tax rates if they offer their land up for agriculture use. Toward this end, Farm LA is working to provide a list of available properties for this type of expansion to LAFPC to present to the county’s planning department.

“Los Angeles is getting really active in urban agriculture, and they are looking to us to help push this act forward,” says Gleicher. “Once this is done, we will have the documentation and literature to help convince and educate people to bring local farming into food deserts and change people’s lives.”

Gleicher and Wood are looking to grow their organization and continue to work to attain a large parcel of land to convert. Part of that plan includes continuing to help support mini-orchards and fruit-sharing initiatives through Wood’s side project We Farm, locating more properties in neighborhoods where development of urban agriculture can have a real impact, and possibly creating small solar farms to put money back into communities.

Gleicher says if they are able to attain the right funding, they can start focusing on cultivating more drought-tolerant edibles, such as certain types of corn, barley, and lima beans, and developing atmospheric water generators to take water directly from the desert air.


This post originally appeared on Seedstock.com: http://seedstock.com/2016/11/03/from-lima-beans-to-city-hall-a-los-angeles-couple-brings-food-and-beauty-to-local-neighborhoods/

Master Gardener Program Grows Food and Community Across L.A. County

Since University of California Cooperative Extension established the first Master Gardener Programs in the state in 1981, its army of certified volunteer gardeners, who are today spread across more than 50 counties, have supported programs aimed at educating California residents, especially those living in low-income communities, about growing their own food.

In Los Angeles, one such program that Master Gardener Program volunteers supported was the Common Ground Garden Program, which was established in 1976 with funds from a Congressional appropriations bill to support a national Urban Garden Program. Working in collaboration with the Common Ground Garden Program, the Master Gardener volunteers played a pivotal role in helping to set up several community and school gardens across the county.

After funding from the Urban Garden Program ceased, the Los Angeles County branch of the Master Gardener Program formally took over the task of training community gardeners.

“Our overall mission is to teach California residents science-based information about sustainable gardening practices,” says Rachel Surls, sustainable food systems advisor for the Cooperative Extension Los Angeles County and one of the contacts for the Master Gardener Program. “The focus is on non-commercial gardening—home and community gardeners.”

Since 1993, the Los Angeles County Master Gardener Program has trained 1,233 Master Gardener volunteers.

At the heart of the Los Angeles County curriculum is the goal of teaching people to grow food, but the knowledge and skills gained by program participants often lead to greater impacts in local communities. Master Gardener volunteer efforts in communities can result in more productive gardens, implementation of sustainable water use practices, and the creation of effective and well organized school and community gardens. In communities experiencing food insecurity, or poor access to healthy foods, the education and support that Master Gardeners bring to their gardens have the potential to positively impact the lives of the residents. According to Surls, the focus on social justice is a continuation of the history of the founding program and something she is proud of.

“Although our mission has broadened to include non-edible gardening, helping to empower underserved communities to grow their own food is still a strong focus,” Surls says. “We do this through partnerships with other organizations.”

One such program is Pacoima, CA-based MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity), whose mission is to “break the bonds of poverty by providing basic human needs and a pathway to self-reliance.” Members of the MEND staff have taken part in the Master Gardener Program and help organize educational training sessions in communities where gardens can make a difference, according to Surls.

Cynthia Hubach, a Master Gardener and the founder of the Elysian Valley Community Garden, has seen first-hand the difference a community garden can make for residents.

“EV (Elysian Valley) is in the midst of a development boom that has created tension among the residents and the newcomers. The garden is a place where people can come together and get to know one another,” Hubach said. “In this neighborhood, where there is lot of diversity, people are learning about different types of plants and methods for growing. The community gardeners really share their knowledge with each other.”

Hubach left her job as a TV producer to go back to school and earn a master’s degree in urban sustainability at Antioch University. In possession of a vacant lot, she wanted to start a community garden for the neighboring residents. With help from the LA Community Garden Council and eager community members, Hubach set up and began operating her community garden. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Master Gardener Program to learn more about actual gardening.

“The program is a lot of book work. You learn mostly about botany and get in deep with how plants work, how the seeds work, and irrigation,” Hubach says. “However, more than the physical elements of gardening, the program puts an emphasis on people who will make a contribution to the community, who will take the information gained and disseminate it to the most people, and who will create the greatest benefit.

“The greatest benefit for me was becoming immersed in a community of people who really want to engage with food access and urban agriculture,” she says.

Other Master Gardeners have started community gardens, including Florence Nishida, who co-founded LA Green Grounds with Vanessa Voblis and Ron Finley, a graduate of the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative. The Grow LA Initiative is a project that was started in 2010 as a response to the growing public interest in edible gardening. The initiative is a four-week mini-Master Gardener course to teach the basics of growing vegetables, with sessions held in churches, community gardens, and schools, according to Surls. After the four sessions, led by Master Gardener volunteers, the participants become certified UC Victory Gardeners. The members of Farm LA, a non-profit organization working to turn vacant lots into gardens, are also Victory Gardeners.

Since its inception, the Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative has trained 2,740 Victory Gardeners at 185 garden locations. More than 300 Master Gardener volunteers taught those classes, which is a major requirement for those wishing to obtain and maintain Master Gardener certification. In fact, Master Gardeners must complete 50 hours of volunteer service their first year and 25 hours each subsequent year, as well as 12 hours of continuing education annually. According to Surls, the volunteer hours only count if the activity includes an educational component.

“In the most recent program year, 277 Master Gardeners logged 17,524 volunteer hours, helping 119,789 Los Angeles County residents to garden more sustainably,” Surls says. Those hours included work at 96 community gardens, 127 school gardens, 10 senior gardens, 8 shelter gardens, and 70 fairs and farmers’ markets.

Whereas the Victory Garden Initiative meets twice a year for four weeks, the Master Gardener Program meets every Saturday for 13 weeks between February and May. Of the 100-200 applications received, only 50 participants are chosen for the Los Angeles County division. Information about the application process for Los Angeles County or other counties throughout California can be found online. Applications must be submitted by January 9, 2017.


This post originally appeared on Seedstock.com: http://seedstock.com/2016/11/29/master-gardeners-across-l-a-use-skills-and-training-to-grow-food-and-community/

Self-Fertilizing Vertical Growing System Makes Home Gardening More Accessible

Sponsored Post: Garden Tower Project is the Barn Sponsor for the upcoming Grow Local OC: Future of Urban Food Systems Conference.

Colin Cudmore, the inventor of the Garden Tower, a garden container with perforated tubing technology that facilitates composting, the movement of Red wiggler worms and nightcrawlers within it, says he does not consider himself a gardener. Yet, Cudmore, and his two business partners, Tom Tlusty and Joel B. Grant, have designed and implemented full-scale production of a new gardening container concept that includes composting and worms, in a self-contained mini-ecosystem.

At the urging of his mother, Ann, a food activist in Bloomington, he attended a lecture by Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power on the subject of “Food Security” and “Food Deserts”. What he heard inspired the inventor to find a way to make gardening more accessible to people all over the world.

A Garden Tower 2. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

A Garden Tower 2. Photo courtesy of Garden Tower Project.

The idea germinated one weekend, as he visited a local farmer’s market in Bloomington, Ind. He noticed a couple of Amish farmers, who were selling seedlings and starter plants, but had few customers, despite the bustling crowd in the marketplace.

Curious, he asked the two farmers why no one had bought their starter plants. The answer surprised him. The farmers told him customers did not buy the plants, because the market’s patrons had lacked the time, space and felt they lacked the knowledge to grow their own food.

That revelation inspired Cudmore to dig deeper into the subject of home gardening,

which subsequently nurtured a vision: Turning patios, balconies, and decks into self-fertilizing gardens that would give food-deprived areas of the world a new weapon to fight hunger and poor nutrition around the globe.

The idea sprouted, and a vision took shape in the form of a garden container that would provide habitat for a healthy worm culture. What began as a desire to encourage gardening, would eventually lead the inveterate tinkerer to devise a completely self-sustaining gardening container that creates its own compost. The technology needs no electricity, so it may be used around the globe, Cudmore says.

Neither a gardener, nor an environmental scientist, Cudmore recalls he wasn’t sure how well the concept would actually work. So, he networked with permaculture experts, gardeners, and advanced master gardeners in the Bloomington area, asking them to test the process. As it turned out, it worked far better than he had ever expected. He tweaked the process further, “and it performs incredibly well,” he says.

The innovative breakthrough was inserting vermi-composting tube. This provides a compost highway, through which worms and nightcrawlers spread worm castings throughout the gardening container. The end result works so well, and creates so many worm castings, there’s enough rich organic fertilizer to spread over the neighbor’s garden beds, too, says Cudmore.

With the Garden Tower, anybody may grow 50 plants in one container, without using even one kilowatt of electricity, Cudmore says.

Tlusty spent five years working at the Chicago Board of Trade, and through that experience, he gained an understanding of the disparity effects caused by market speculation, in what he calls an “industrial” agricultural system. He observed market dynamics that have crushed small farmers.

“The beauty of this design is that it’s self-contained and the plastic covers the majority of the soil, so there’s very little evaporation. The water that’s not needed by the plants, drains out of the bottom, is captured and reintroduced back into the soil” he says. “So it’s incredibly efficient and extremely beneficial for areas of the world that are suffering from water scarcity, poor or sandy soil conditions, or toxic soil.”

Cudmore says the reason the design works so well is that roots have access to water and nutrients in a continual down-flow, on a regular basis.

The composting worms, and night crawlers, which are easily obtained in most areas of the world, travel through perforations that run the entire length of the column. As the critters move in and out of the column into the surrounding soil, those passageways become oxygen pockets that also revitalize the soil, says Cudmore. A nutrient-rich tea from the leachate is collected in a drawer at the bottom of the system.

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Company Information and Mission:

The Garden Tower Project, founded in 2012, is a socially-responsible business concept, based in Bloomington, Indiana. Focusing on the accessibility gap for wholesome food, the Garden Tower Project strives to create easy availability of fresh, organic food to populations who lack either the access, or the ability to grow their own food. The primary goal is to make this happen innovatively, collaboratively, and affordably.

Our Mission is to provide a superior portable, Non-GMO & heirloom supporting, gardening ecosystem. The Garden Tower is a revolutionary self-contained garden/composting system with the potential to transform home gardening, urban gardening, and world hunger programs. At the Garden Tower Project, we are passionate about healthy food for everyone. We believe in doing everything we can as a sustainable and responsible business to help those most in need. We are working towards a more resilient and sustainable economic future for individuals and communities. We believe that the Garden Tower can play a major role in this effort.

The Garden Tower is a uniquely viable solution for areas of the world where poor soil conditions, water scarcity, flooding and drought contribute to chronic hunger. Further, the Garden Tower is perfect for gardeners of all sorts, especially the millions who lack access to land to start a garden, those with physical restrictions, and beginning gardeners. Anyone who is ready for a faster, easier way to grow food will love it. Absolutely no gardening experience is necessary. The design is elegant in its simplicity, and initial setup is straightforward and easy.

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Garden Tower Project Vision

The Garden Tower Project has a vision of a world with healthy produce, accessible gardening, and food for all. The existence of a Centralized Agriculture system is faced with a variety of challenges both in the quality of food that’s produced, the impact on the environment, and ultimately being unsustainable. A move to Distributed Agriculture is a good solution to these problems, and we believe that The Garden Tower can be a means to that end.

Garden Tower Project – Partnerships

The Garden Tower Project seeks ventures and partnerships with local businesses, Not-For-Profits, Universities, Government and non-governmental agencies, Corporations and Public and Private sector agencies. We seek to educate individuals and communities on the benefits of “Distributed Agriculture”, as a path to increasing resilience during times of price shocks or disruptions to the food supply. Our plan is to teach the importance of concepts, such as, sustainability and diversity while demonstrating this by integration of our projects in the community.

The Garden Tower Project will allow individuals and communities to easily become more self-sufficient, sustainable and ultimately create a more resilient local economy. We share a vision of a world enhanced by easier gardening, healthier produce, and food security for all.

We believe there is great need for education and community involvement in protecting ourselves from contaminants in our monolithic, over processed and inefficiently transported food supply. Our food system is troubled today, but much great work is being done to create a more sensible, sustainable, and healthy food system tomorrow.

Garden Towers, when planted in any community, tend to grow and thrive along with that community bringing fresh, organic produce and a shared sense of beauty, awe and wonder, to those who are attentive.

*Feed yourself, feed your community, feed your world!*