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.)
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
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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."