(Tracy Facchin, Public Service Supervisor at the Stittsville Library, oversees the children’s hydroponics Growing Futures garden project. Photo: Stittsville Central.)
When you enter the Stittsville Library Branch, you will quickly notice the bright lights of an obscure looking tower. The vertical illuminated planter looks a bit like a bird feeder that contains 28 pockets where each is growing healthy salad greens. Herbs, tomatoes and peppers can also be grown indoors all year round using the hydroponic tower.
(The Growing Futures hydroponics garden tower at the Stittsville Library. Photo: Stittsville Central.)
The Library has teamed up with the Parkdale Food Centre and its Growing Futures program — a social venture that promotes good food, financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills in younger children and youth. Growing Futures teaches the importance of healthy food, how to grow it and the basics of running a business. Using hydroponic growing systems, the children create and manage small market gardens.
Tracy Facchin, Public Service Supervisor at the Stittsville Library, oversees the children and the project overall. Tracy told us, “this is a wonderful opportunity for the kids. It teaches so many skills all in one project…using math skills, business, marketing, science, gardening, and finances through weighing their crops and deciding on a selling price, as well as the science element”. She is delighted to see the kids being so successful and interested in managing the grow tower as well as the business side. “They are doing a great job” she added.
(The Stittsville children check the crop before harvest. Photo: Stittsville Library.)
Karen Secord, Manager of the Parkdale Food Centre, and her crew of dedicated volunteers believe that “nutritious, wholesome food is a basic human right, and is fundamental to building positive physical, mental, and emotional health. The solution is food, community and connection”. Karen took the Growing Futures program one step further when she encouraged kids and the local community to grow their own food.
At the Stittsville Library, participating children have been dedicated to tending the plants, harvesting and selling their bountiful crops of leafy greens.
The towers cost about $1,000, with some being paid for by sponsors (the Library tower is not sponsored), with public spaces and schools acting as host sites. The host sites cover the minimal costs for hydro and water. The towers are maintained by the kids – with Ph and nutrient levels to be checked regularly, filling the water reservoir (which has a pump similar to that in a fish pond sending the water to the top of the tower and it then flows downwards to water the vegetables) and, of course, nurturing the leafy plants.
(Leaf lesson and weighing the crop before packaging to sell. Photo: Stittsville Library.)
The kids participating in the Stittsville Library venture have already sold some of their crops. Of the revenue they earn, 70% is reinvested back into their business — purchasing the seeds and nutrients for the plants and any necessary supplies for the tower — with the other 30% being returned to Growing Futures so the organization can continue these ongoing projects. The kids also donate back — sharing the fruits of their labour with the Stittsville Food Bank.
(The first crop of leafy greens grown by the children and harvested – bagged and ready for sale. Photo: Stittsville Library)
The Stittsville group have quickly learned the importance of giving back to their community and keeping the business afoot — an early taste of being an entrepreneur.
Growing Futures began in August 2016 with the purchase of 10 hydroponic garden towers that were set up in classrooms, community houses, and community centres. As of July 2017, they have 37 systems in place, including Ottawa’s City Hall. Within one year, the organization has earned considerable interest in our community and beyond.
Who would have thought that growing lettuce and basil would connect with the children of our community!
(Editor’s Note: With the high cost and lack of fresh vegetables in Northern communities, the Growing Futures program would both fill a need and provide an excellent learning opportunity for kids of the North. They could grow their own food and gain the business skills that come along with this worthy project.)
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