Thanks to a donation from nutrition company Juice Plus+, the Community Boys and Girls Club now has a Tower Garden where they can grow their own fruits and vegetables.
The Tennessee-based company makes the vertical gardens, in which plants are grown aeroponically using water and nutrients and no dirt. According to company representative Brian Koeth, it takes up 90 percent less water than normal gardening and grows produce in four to six weeks, making it an ideal way for young people to see the entire process and be able to get involved.
“It’s a great opportunity to get these kids involved with a project that is fun and encourages healthy living,” Koeth said, noting that about 500 Tower Gardens have already been donated to Boys and Girls Clubs around the country by Juice Plus+, with a goal of getting one to every club. “They’re really popular. It’s a very successful program, and the kids love them.”
At the Community Boys and Girls Club on Nixon Street, about 20 middle and high school students gathered around Koeth as he explained to them how the Tower Garden works and asked them to do things like insert the baskets in the holders, moisten the nutrient pods and put the seeds in.
“You can grow your own fruits and vegetables in half the time it normally takes and eat them,” Koeth told the crowd. “This is the way of the future.”
Koeth showed photos of how the garden would progress in the next few weeks. He told them to keep an eye out for seedlings, which would need to be taken outside for sunlight immediately, as well as showed them how much water was needed for each pod.
“We want you to learn this and do it well and hopefully we can get more into the community,” said Koeth, who said more exposure and involvement outside the Boys and Girls Clubs could lead to private citizens donating Tower Gardens to schools and other community areas.
Twelve-year-old Demearia and 14-year-old Demetria, both Williston Middle School students, were two of the most eager participants at Wednesday’s introductory planting.
“It was fun,” said Demetria, who asked Koeth a few questions during the process and volunteered for the different steps.
Demearia, who said she has a garden at home and likes planting, stayed close to the front during the entire presentation.
“It was cool and interesting,” the 12-year-old said after helping plant seeds for lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
Both girls said they were looking forward to eating the produce grown from the Tower Garden, which will be used by kitchen staff for the meals they provide the children involved in their programs.
The vertical garden received by the Community Boys and Girls Club, which stands about five feet tall and can hold up to 20 baskets of plants, can be placed either indoors or outdoors, according to Koeth. The center’s staff said it would eventually be placed out back by their garden and play area.
Until then, Koeth said he will be back for the next three weeks to show both the youth and adults the next step in the process and make sure everything is growing properly.
“I know they’re all going to get more excited once they start to see it grow,” Koeth said, noting each group of kids always has a few that take to it immediately, while others take some time to get interested. “It allows them to be a part of something that not a lot of kids get to experience growing up.”