Produce aisles have been a little barer than usual in the past year with historic droughts ravaging California farms.
It's made it harder for shoppers to find affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables, and has led to some outside-the-box thinking at grocery stores across the West Coast — including at Whistler's Olives Community Market, where produce manager Alex Powell just installed a state-of-the-art Tower Garden that will be home to several herbs and greens this summer.
The Tower Garden is a vertical aeroponic growing system that is perfect for those with a green thumb who may not have the time, resources or energy to tend their own traditional garden. It is meant to be set up in any outdoor area that's flush with sunlight, and can grow practically any vegetable, herb or flowers, as well as many fruits, in less time than it takes in soil.
Powell got the idea from one of her suppliers — Astrid Cameron Kent of Astrid's Fine Foods — and planted some kale, lettuce, cilantro and a few flowers in the mutli-tiered tower last week that will eventually be ready to sell in-store.
"But it can do things like tomatoes, it can do basil, zucchini," Powell explains. "It can pretty much do anything besides a root vegetable, which requires soil."
Olives also retails the Tower Garden for $600, which can be paid for in monthly installments.
With produce costs rising, and the continuing effects of climate change on crops, Powell believes we'll be seeing the Tower Garden in more homes, as word of it spreads.
"Organic produce is expensive to start with and the prices are only going up, so people who care about eating healthy, fresh food are going to start looking for other options," she says. "And this system will easily pay itself off for a family of four or five within a year."
Plus, the immediacy of having fresh fruit and vegetables readily available at the tip of your fingers can only benefit people's diets, Powell says.
"Having your fresh produce right in your kitchen makes it easier for you to eat fresh. There's nothing fresher than picking it and eating it right away, so that of course has a high nutrient value for you," she says.
The Tower Garden also uses 90-per-cent less water and requires much less work than your average garden.
"It's super easy to maintain, it's super easy to take care of. It doesn't take up much space in your home," says Powell. "You don't have to get on your hands and knees and dig around in the soil, which some people love doing and I love doing, too, but it's definitely time-consuming and hard work, whereas this system is already assembled. You just put the pieces together and it takes about 20 minutes, and you have it up and running super fast."
For more information, visit www.towergarden.com.