Pathways to Food Security
How the Garden Tower® 2 Vertical Planting System is Creating a Positive Change in Communities
Earth Connections Garden Centre is about twenty minutes west of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada. It is located on forty acres of land made up mostly of natural prairie grasses. Although it is beautiful to look at, the land is mostly sand (89%), which makes growing vegetables a challenge.
When our community was looking for a way to grow healthy food, one of our members came across the Garden Tower 2® Vertical Planting System Kickstarter campaign. We placed an order for three towers and eagerly awaited their arrival. They arrived in April of 2015, and within five weeks of starting our Garden Tower® 2 planting systems we were harvesting fresh food. It was amazing!
My background includes working with First Nations, organic gardening, and twenty-five years as an Executive Chef in the hotel and restaurant industries. After seeing the wonderful results of growing with the Garden Tower 2® system, my partners and I contacted Garden Tower Project and enquired about becoming a Canadian distributor. Our timing was right, and in May of 2015, Earth Connections Garden Centre was established. Part of our mission is to be a holistic business that integrates social impact for all our members and clients.
From the beginning, our focus has been to incorporate the Garden Tower 2® system in First Nation communities, schools, food banks, seniors residences, health care facilities, community groups, and in individual urban homes. We have had both successes and failures as we embraced the three-dimensional, vertical nature of growing plants in a tower. As we learned, we improved our methods and began looking for like-minded groups to try the Garden Tower 2® planting system, or as we say, “give it a spin!”
In October 2015, we were given the opportunity to present our work at the Indigenous Ag Summit. This opportunity led to a surprising number of new connections. One was making contact with the Regina Food Bank who, in February of 2016, piloted two Garden Tower® 2 planting systems and later went on to secure generous funding through a Co-op Community Spaces Grant. With the grant, the Regina Food Bank purchased and installed forty-eight Garden Tower® 2 systems! Each tower was set up with two extra rings, casters, the Aquajet watering system, lighting and stands.
Garden Towers in Saskatchewan
Every month, over nine thousand people access the Regina Food Bank. During winter, the availability of produce is inconsistent. Garden Tower® 2 planting systems are already creating a positive result by making produce more abundant. Regina Food Bank is now working on a six week rotating schedule supplying produce to both their hamper and culinary programs.
Education, Nutrition, and Therapy
The benefits of Garden Tower® 2 vertical planting systems in schools around Saskatchewan are threefold. First, when used with the STEM curriculum, teachers are able to use Garden Tower® 2 systems to assist in hands-on learning of science and math. Second, students prepare and taste food which they assisted in growing on site. Most importantly, the students experience therapeutic effects of working with green, growing things. Garden Tower® 2 planting systems allow students from kindergarten to high school unwind and focus on the nurturing effects of soil, worms and plants. I have witnessed the wonders of this “horticultural therapy” first hand!
Canadian Students Love the Garden Tower 2™
Earth Connections is also working with the Ottawa Network for Education. Our goal is to have two Garden Tower® 2 systems in every school over a three-year period. We have also partnered with Challenge Disability Resource Group in Whitehorse, Yukon, who are using the Garden Tower® 2 planting systems in educational programs and workshops. Our most recent partnership is with Athabasca Health Authority as part of the Nutrition North program. Residents have empowered themselves to grow fresh produce. This has produced better health and the satisfaction of knowing exactly where their food comes from.
Another area in which we see significant impact is among senior citizens. Many seniors are moving to urban areas. The Garden Tower® 2 system allows them to retain the ability to garden. We have also placed several Garden Tower® 2 systems in senior care homes and assisted living facilities. People with mobility issues are especially pleased that the Garden Tower® 2 rotates and is easily accessible. These opportunities provide folks the chance to put their hands in the soil, which has profound therapeutic effects.
We have found that it is not just the Garden Tower® 2 vertical planting system that people want. They also desire support through first-hand experience and the sharing of knowledge. Three-dimensional growing is different from typical gardening and raised bed methods. We have had numerous plants die, and that’s part of the learning process. To share our knowledge and achieve our mission, Garden Connections Garden Centre provides Canadians a complete package of tools and support – Garden Tower® 2 systems, seeds, germination stations, on-site education, and follow up through Skype and email.
Gardening makes everything better!
Since many communities are remote and have limited access to quality produce throughout most of the year, Garden Tower® 2 vertical planting systems can make a significantly positive impact on them. We have worked with many people through discussing food security and including the Garden Tower® 2 system as part of the plan. It has been amazing! We are very proud and honored to have been recently recognized by the Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.
We are thrilled to have discovered the Garden Tower® 2 vertical planting system, and are even happier to be serving Canadians from coast-to-coast, shipping to the Yukon, British Columbia, and Newfoundland, all in the name of changing lives!