Shaping a Sustainable Future

As global warming causes changes in weather patterns, a local organization is growing produce in an earth-conscious way. With the help of hydroponic gardening towers that grow crops at faster rates using less water than traditional farming, City Greens Community Farm is at the forefront of a sustainable gardening revolution.

“The goal behind it [is] to start an educational urban farm in Los Angeles, essentially, not only providing hyperlocal, sustainably grown produce, but also to educate different communities on ways to grow food and kind of change the footprint of where food comes from in big cities,” said Jennifer Levy, executive director of City Greens.

The farm currently uses this new technology to grow crops for local farmers’ markets and nonprofits around the Los Angeles area. Originally Beverly Hills Community Farm, City Greens has since changed its name to reflect the work they do in other places. The organization currently has hydroponic towers in Ohio and Maui, Hawaii, and it works with schools in the San Fernando Valley, Crescenta Valley and Brentwood. But their largest outreach is still in Beverly Hills. Within the city, it partners with the Menorah Housing Foundation, Temple Emmanuel, and other nonprofits to donate a large portion of their yield to underserved communities. City Greens is now giving back to the community as well as educating the public by installing hydroponic towers at fire stations.

There are currently five hydroponic towers at Beverly Hills High School that are used for AP science classes and the moderate to severe special education program. The crops that these towers produce are donated and also used in healthy cooking demonstrations. On April 22, City Greens installed a tower at Beverly Vista Middle School that will be utilized in the next school year to prepare students for more advanced science classes in high school.

Besides educational benefits, there are many reasons why hydroponic gardening is a more sustainable option. Each tower yields about 4 to 5 pounds of produce in a 30-day growing cycle, depending on the weight of each crop. According to statistics on the City Greens website, the traditional growing cycle would take three to four months. The towers also use less water than traditional farming. “It uses 80 to 90 percent less water; plants grow about three times as fast,” said Levy.

Supporting local farms such as City Greens also eliminates fuel emissions caused by transporting crops to grocers. “There’s no carbon footprint because you’re harvesting and using it right away,” said Levy.

The produce is therefore fresher and packed with more nutrients than the produce from a grocery chain. “Greens specifically start losing their nutrients once you harvest them,” Levy explained. “What we’re getting from grocery stores has been grown most of the time outside of Los Angeles. It’s been harvested early. It’s been put into cold storage. Then it’s kind of been defrosted or brought back to room temperature or a little under room temperature when it’s been put out in the store. So, we’re not even getting anywhere near the nutritional benefits of what we think we’re getting because we don’t know when it was actually harvested.”

Individuals who are interested in purchasing their own hydroponic gardening tower can do so through the City Greens website. However, with prices starting at $670, these new sustainable gardens are an investment. Levy explained that over time, factoring in the quality of crops and the large yield, each hydroponic tower will eventually pay for itself.

The installations of community towers at schools have been made possible with the help of grants from the city of Beverly Hills, but City Greens decided to donate a new tower to the fire department headquarters. “The goal was for us just to give back to the city,” Levy said about the installation at the fire station on April 18. “We know, obviously they cook every day for all the people on staff.”

The new tower will provide more nutritional choices for meals at the station. Eventually, City Greens hopes to install even more hydroponic systems at different fire stations around Beverly Hills and expand their reach to other cities nearby.

“[We want] to show people that there are ways to grow a lot of food in big cities without harming the Earth,” Levy said. 

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