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TowerPower

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Frank Tecklenburg

Pathways to Food Security

Pathways to Food Security

Earth Connections Garden Centre is about 20 minutes west of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada, on 40 acres of land mostly made up of natural prairie grasses. Although beautiful to look at, the land is mostly sand (89%) which makes growing a variety of vegetables very difficult. 

 

As our community was looking for a way to grow healthy food, one of our members came across the Kickstarter campaign for the Garden Tower 2. We placed an order for 3 Towers and eagerly awaited their arrival. They arrived in April of 2015, and within 5 weeks of starting our Garden Towers we were harvesting fresh food. It was amazing!

 

 The Garden Tower 2

 

Holistic Mission

My background includes working with First Nations and organic gardening, as well as, 25 years as an Executive Chef in the hotel and restaurant industries. After seeing the wonderful results of growing with the Garden Tower 2 (GT2), 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 as a holistic business integrating social impact for all our members and clients as part of the model. 

 

From the beginning, the focus was to incorporate the Garden Tower 2 in First Nation communities, schools, food banks, seniors residences, health care facilities, community groups, and in individual homes in urban areas. We had both successes and failures as we embraced the 3-dimensional, vertical growing in the Towers.  As we learned, we became better at the method and began to look for like-minded groups to try the Garden Tower, or as we say, "Give it a spin!"

 

 

Increasing Availability

 

In October 2015, we were given the opportunity to present at the Indigenous Ag Summit. This opportunity led to a wide variety of others. One was making contact with the Regina Food Bank who, in February of 2016, piloted 2 Garden Towers 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 48 Garden Towers! Each Tower was set up with two extra rings, casters*, and the Aquajet watering system*. Lighting* and stands for each Tower were also installed. 

 

*Products listed & linked above are through Canadian distributor, Earth Connections Garden Centre. See here for U.S., here for U.K., and here for Australia.

 

     

 

 

Over 9000 people access the Regina Food Bank on a monthly basis. During the winter months, the availability of produce is inconsistent. The Garden Towers are already creating a positive result helping to fill the gaps. The Food Bank is now working on a six week rotating schedule and is supplying produce to both their hamper and culinary programs. 

 

 

Education, Nutrition, and Therapy

The benefits of Garden Towers in schools around Saskatchewan are threefold. First, when used with STEM curriculum, teachers are able to use Garden Towers to assist hands-on learning of science and math. Second, students prepare and taste food they have played a part in growing on site . Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the students experience therapeutic effects when working with the plants.  The Garden Towers allow preschool/kindergarden to high school students unwind and focus on the nurturing of the soil, worms and plants. I have witnessed the wonders of this "horticultural therapy" first hand!

 

    

 

Earth Connections is also working with the Ottawa Network for Education in Ontario. Our goal is to have 2 Garden Towers in every school over a 3 year period. We have also partnered with Challenge Disability Resource Group in Whitehorse, Yukon. They are using the Garden Towers, as well as other mediums, in educational programs and workshops. Our most recent partnership is with Athabasca Health Authority as part of the Nutrition North program. The ability for the residents to empower themselves to grow fresh produce themselves allows for better health outcomes, as well as, the satisfaction of knowing exactly where their food comes from. It's a win-win!

 

One other area we see significant impact is among senior citizens. Many seniors are making their way to live in urban areas. The Garden Tower allows them to still have access to gardening.  We have also placed several GT2s in senior care homes and assisted living facilities. Those with mobility issues are especially pleased that the Tower rotates and is easily accessible. Again, these opportunities provide folks the chance to put their hands in the soil which has profound therapeutic effects. 

 

 

Supporting Others

We have found that it is not just the Garden Tower 2 that people want, it's also support through first-hand experience and knowledge sharing. Three-dimensional growing is a little different from typical gardening and raised bed methods. We have had numerous plants die and that is all part of the learning. To share our knowledge and achieve our mission, Garden Connections Garden Centre provides Canadians a complete package of tools and support - Garden Tower 2s, seeds, germination stations, and on-site education and follow up through Skype and email.  

 

 

As many communities are remote and have limited access to quality produce throughout most of the year, Garden Towers can make a significant impact. Working with so many groups and individuals, discussing food security and implementing the Garden Tower 2 as a part of a plan, 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 for our work.  

 

   

 

We are very happy to have discovered the Garden Tower 2, and even happier to be serving Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast, shipping to the Yukon, British Colombia, and Newfoundland, and helping to change lives!