GroOrganic Brings Slow Food to Local High Schools

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We think of fast food as the ultimate convienance - if you're hungry, all you have to do is head through a drive through and you can eat in minutes. Slow Food is the antithesis: the idea behind the movement is food that's good for you and for the enviornment is worth waiting for. Fort Lauderdale's Karin Fields is a dedicated soldier of the movement. She works for groOrganic, a California-based company that designs and installs sustainable gardens in backyards, on balconies, and, now, in public schools.

While most high school students are out enjoying their summer vacation, Fields spent her summer installing sustainable vegetable gardens at Dillard High School in Coconut Creek and, soon, Northwestern High School in Miami. The schools will be growing fruits and vegetables year round using groOrganic's Earth Box, a self-watering, above-ground planter that Fields calls "goof proof."

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The garden at Dillard High is in full bloom.


Each box is three-feet by two-feet and contains a water reservoir underneath the soil. Amatuer gardeners can simply fill the resevoire, which self-waters the plant on its own. "What the Earth Box really does is it gives people who don't have access to dirt or a large space the ability to grow," says Fields. The above-ground planter is especially important in Florida, since the soil here contains detrimental nematodes that make it difficult for some plants to survive.

Fields, whose work for groOrganic consists of about 50% community service, has been conducting the program all summer at Dillard, where the green stalks plants are already stretching up towards the sun. At Northwestern, winner of CBS' "Green My School" program for Miami-Dade County, she's installing 36 Earth Boxes that will be active by the time school resumes in late August. (You can watch Northwestern's GMS submission video here.) 

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Earth Boxes at Dillard High.
Having students tend to gardens in public schools is more than just about the plants themselves. Through the program, Fields hopes to educate children in the importance of taking control of their own food destiny. "What concerns me most is people who are in trouble, who don't have the money to eat well," she says. "You look in their grocery bags and you see nothing but processed, pre-packaged foods. And it's actually more expensive to eat that way." Fields hopes that, through the program, students will learn how food actually comes to be; that it isn't just restricted to what you find at Publix.

Fields envisions a future where hungry people can simply pop into their garden and harvest their own meals. The alternative, she believes, is a world where fruits and vegetables are luxuries only afforded by the rich. "We have to take responsibility for ourselves," she adds. "We're running out of resources and there are far too many hungry people in the world. We can't rely on the government or corporations to take care of our food needs. Educating people early is a great way to start. It's easy, it's not time consuming, and it's very rewarding."



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