Bringing Hope and Fresh Produce: The Impact of Vertical Gardening on Single-Parent Families
Two Arizona nonprofits have teamed up to bring gardening—and all its purported health benefits—to those in need. The Singletons, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that supports single-parent families battling cancer, is partnering with Pinedora Farms, an organic farm in Pinedale that works to educate people about the healing powers of food. Together, they have built a vertical garden that will provide fresh produce for Singletons families via meal kits and education. “Gardening and growing your own food are relaxing,” says Singletons executive director Jody Boyd. “It promotes mental health and wellness, but you would be surprised how many people do not know how to prepare what they grow. The Singletons is here to fill in the gap.” Boyd and Pinedora Farms President Lisa Kaiser share how they connected, the partnership and the power of gardening.
Jody and Lisa, let’s start with a bit about each of your nonprofits and what you do.
Jody Boyd: For 17 years, The Singletons has provided consistent support and hope to single-parent moms, dads, and children battling cancer. Life doesn’t stop with a cancer diagnosis. There are bills to pay, dinners to be made, and pantries to restock with essential supplies. Additionally, The Singletons focuses on the importance of uplifting time spent together as a family and creating positive memories even in the most difficult of times.
Lisa Kaiser: Pinedora Farms is also a nonprofit organization. We are located up in the White Mountains of Arizona. We are an organic farm and education facility, with plans to build a Wellness Center, where people can come stay here for extended periods, to not only learn about growing their own healthy organic food but how to prepare it as well.
And you’ve partnered together. Tell us about that and how it came about.
JB: Lisa and I met through mutual supporters. Reality One had 56 volunteers visit The Singletons H.U.B. for a day of service. This group put together our outdoor vertical garden towers and indoor hydroponic gardening systems. When Lisa found out they were planning this event, she reached out to me in the hope of partnering.
LK: We jumped at the opportunity. Jody and I began to email back and forth, and when she first told me about Singletons and provided various statistics, I literally had tears. I just knew this was something our organization had to get involved with and help in any way we possibly could.
JB: Pinedora Farm has been so kind. Lisa and her team are continuing to support our project by helping to develop a full community garden in a separate area on our property. This entire project is only just beginning but what we have been able to accomplish and the combined vision we have is exciting. I am so very grateful.
Jody, how has gardening helped the people you serve?
JB: One of The Singletons’ core programs is our Singletons Kitchen. Volunteers assemble meal kits that are distributed to our families. These meal kits aim to provide an easy, nutrient-dense meal while promoting time spent as a family, creating positive memories. The kitchen is the heart of every home. Our Healthy Harvest program is an extension of the next phase of our kitchen program. Produce grown on-site will be used in meal kits as well as examples for teaching families what to do with the produce they receive or grow on their own.
Gardening and growing your own food are relaxing. It promotes mental health and wellness, but you would be surprised how many people do not know what to do with or how to prepare for what they grow. The Singletons is here to fill in the gaps by providing the resources, tools, education and fun!
Why vertical gardening?
LK: There are many reasons, but the biggest one is space-saving. Many people live in apartments or homes with little to no backyards. If you have a balcony, you can grow your own food. Vertical growing means you’re growing “up” to utilize space and grow more food. You really can grow so much more food and save a lot of space. There are so many creative ideas for growing vertical, and you don’t have to spend very much money – you just get creative.
And composting is integrated into the planters?
JB: The Singletons received several vertical gardening systems through a grant from the Arizona Food Bank Network. Our indoor vertical garden system is hydroponic. This allows us to grow inside in a temperature-controlled environment. The outdoor system is a vertical garden tower with a compost core. This system allows us to grow up to 150 vegetable plants in approximately 20 square feet of land. The compost core will allow The Singletons to educate our families about composting while learning how they can adopt these healthy lifestyle techniques.
LK: The vertical towers are awesome. You can toss your kitchen scraps down to start composting them. As the tube fills up and compacts, the scraps break down and ultimately become a highly nutrient-filled soil that, as you water the planter towers, those nutrients will continually seep into the soil of the other plants to feed them. You can do composting in so