Growing food in a shoebox

I once heard Michael Pollan evoke our relationship with food in a way that profoundly resonated with me.

“For a long time, the environmentalist movement had a blind spot for agriculture. It has turned around as it’s realizing that food grown with respect for the environment offers us a new positive model for our relationship with Nature”, he said.

For those of us who live in urban centers, as do more than 50% of the world population, our relationship with Nature is mostly limited to the experiences we may enjoy on vacation away from the city. How do we nurture that relationship in our daily urban lives so as to keep alive the connection to our essence and to the whole of Creation?

That’s where natural food comes in. It embodies the vital link between soil, plants, animals and mankind that Sir Albert Howard, and many others after him, have upheld as the cycle of life that we depend on. A cycle whose health, vibrancy and balance is a huge component of the overall health of our planet.

Now. What if we took that cycle home? On our decks or even straight in the kitchen if natural sunlight allows? That’s what Earthbox, a Pennsylvania-based company, has been proposing to do since 1994. Its concept is beautifully simple and effective: bring Nature to you in the form of a food-growing box designed to yield gorgeous, delicious crops with minimum effort. No farming skills necessary. Just enough direct sunlight and follow the instructions!

Earthbox was brought recently to my attention by Jonathan Gomwalk, a co-founder of Upinde ROOTS. This social enterprise is focused on improving food access in Oakland’s poorest neighborhoods also known as “food deserts”. Upinde ROOTS’s strategy is to teach people with no easy or affordable access to fresh produce how to grow their own food. It has secured a retailing licence with Earthbox and provides workshops to educate its customers about how to make the most of their new gear.

I started having visions of home-grown greens, peas and radishes the moment I heard about Earthbox. Unfortunately, my bright apartment receives no direct sunlight past the early morning hours. Which is too bad.

I love receiving my weekly allowance of fresh produce through my CSA membership. And visiting the farmers’ market is always a lot of fun. Just as importantly, I strongly believe in supporting farmers. After all, growing food is what they do for a living. And they are way better skilled and equipped for it than I’ll ever be.

This being said, there is undeniable magic is watching one’s food grow. Witnessing the miracle of Nature at work, from a seed buried in the soil to a plant ready to be picked and enjoyed, is bound to transform our relationship with food.

In fact, this is precisely the premise that inspired Seb Mayfield to create the One Plot Pledge campaign that launched in Britain on March 25. “I’ve been enrolling people into growing their own food because I believe it is crucial for them to experience the delayed satisfaction of watching something grow”, he told me. “Once this experience has captured their imagination, it is a lot easier to bring them into the conversation about food security and farming-related environmental issues”, he added.

My friend François, who adopted a very health-conscious diet to support his wife through breast cancer a few years ago, also shares this vision. I was pleased to hear that he recently bought two Earthboxes to create a fun project with his children. No matter how far away they may stray from healthy natural foods as they grow older, their knowledge of food and diet will be forever informed by their experience of a home food-garden cared for with the help of their dad.

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One Response to Growing food in a shoebox

  1. urban-oasis says:

    Great article!!
    It’s really important for us to start (the food revolution) right where we are…that could be on our decks, window-sills or driveways(s). Once we start, and begin to enjoy the taste and joy of growing our own healthy foods, our human creative spirit will take over, and we will begin to call a new fresh, locally grown foods reality into existence. This is a great way to introduce anyone/everyone to local food production that requires very little maintenance (EarthBoxes only need to be watered once or twice a week), and is so easy anyone, both young and old can do it. Let’s all get growing…..

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