A Bracebridge resident is introducing aeroponic community farming amid climbing food prices

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Agatha Farmer

Groceries are set to increase in price yet again in 2020, a report by researchers from Dalhousie and the University of Guelph released earlier this month suggested that, next year, the typical family will pay an extra $487 for food.

The report, conducted by Angus Reid and released by Dalhousie University, surveyed 1,507 Canadians in early December. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they are worried about vegetable prices, with another 60 per cent concerned about the cost of fruit, and 54 per cent concerned about how much they’re paying for meat.

Eighty-seven per cent of respondents said that food prices are rising faster than their household incomes. The most recent inflation rate, in October, was 1.9 per cent, compared with a 3.7 per cent rise in food prices this year. Vegetable prices alone rose 12 per cent in 2019.

Food insecurity in Muskoka is an ongoing issue with food bank use climbing year after year. Bracebridge resident Terri Fox Stokholm wants to tackle local food insecurity with an indoor growing system capable of producing veggies and fruits all year around. She is starting the conversation to raise awareness about indoor growing possibilities which could aid in maintaining food security for the regions residents.

Terri Fox Stokholm has been a dietician for over 20 years.

Stokholm has been a dietician for over 20 years and is currently a rep for Juice Plus which recently developed an aeroponics garden tower.

Aeroponics is the process of growing plants without soil, using only water and nutrients. This is an innovative evolution of existing hydroponic systems which periodically showers exposed roots, providing fresh oxygen, water, and nutrients precisely when plants need them. The result is an incredibly nutritious produce. This method uses 2 percent of the water and 10 percent of the space required for traditional growing.

"I have spent a lifetime teaching about eating whole foods. As a dietician when I get sent to teach a diabetic, who is living on food bank donations and a fixed income, how to prepare a healthy meal with canned food; it's impossible," she said, "The company's hope is to inspire healthy living ... I have been using the tower garden since last year, and I love it because it takes less time to grow produce. Micro greens can also be grown."

Since purchasing her tower garden Stokholm said she has grown so much produce that she has given some away to her neighbours.

The system can produce "tons" of different veggies; tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, eggplant, strawberries, green beans, zucchini, watermelon, and more. The plants Stokholm said can also be pollinated indoors.

From seed to harvest the timeline for produce growth in a garden tower is between 4 to 5 weeks.

Stokholm has a vision of using the Tower Gardens to grow fresh produce for local food banks, she is also trying to introduce the idea to local school boards as there is a gardening curriculum for children from JK to high school.

"I want to build community gardens, perhaps at the Sportsplex in Bracebridge. Ideally it would be great to have some type of indoor space for Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst where we can house a few of them in each municipality," Stokholm said.

"I get so excited because if say churches got involved they could be sending local fresh grown produce to anyone in need. I would also love to provide some education sessions or workshops regarding this type of indoor growing."

Stokholm is looking to potentially collaborate with Muskoka food banks in the new year as well as churches to see if they might be willing to participate and house such an indoor growing pilot project through the region's long winter months. During the spring and summer the tower garden can be maintained outdoors. Stokholm, however, acknowledges that funding will be required for the purchase of the towers, she is hoping to fundraise money through donations for the project.

The towers can be purchased as a complete kit with seeds, nutrients, etc, individually for $1,000 or as a group of 12 for $7,000, this option Stokholm said is the most economical for community gardens. The cost can be spread out over 12 months.

"The winter's here are almost 8 months long so we need alternative growing solutions for sustainability, plus with this type of growing you know exactly where the produce is coming from and that it is fresh. Take it from the tower and put it on your plate because these are fresh nutrients," Fox said.

For more information on the Tower Garden visit https://tf33742.towergarden.ca/aeroponics


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