Our home is our sanctuary, and we spend a considerable amount of time and energy to get it just the way we like it. What a wonderful feeling to come home and just sink into our favourite area and putter around our treasured knick knacks.
Most homes are built to prioritize food preparation and eating, entertaining, sleeping, personal grooming, and storing stuff all while keeping the indoor environment comfortable for people to live in. The majority of houses built in Edmonton have not been designed to support indoor food production, which has traditionally been something you do outside.
Unfortunately with a changing climate, a struggling economy, and more frequent weather extremes, the security of our food system becomes more uncertain. As a result, there are families, communities, cities, and organizations across the world that are thinking radically about how urban agriculture can be re-introduced into our daily lives, and one place that starts is at home.
Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. However, for the purposes of the Grow Food Indoors program, we’re just going to focus on cultivating food in your home.
Now we need to start the work of helping families and households across Edmonton begin to transform their homes into food factories.
Where Can I Grow Food Indoors?
Often, when people resist the idea of growing their own food, the biggest stumbling block is the image in their mind’s eye about where to put the ‘garden’ in their already busy home. They visually scan a mental representation of their home and realize that most of the space is already taken up with stuff, and then think that they would need to get rid of stuff, downsize, and possibly even re-arrange their lifestyle.
For people with many competing demands and responsibilities, a busy work life, and social commitments, the cost-benefit analysis between keeping things the same versus the risk of trying something new falls predictably on the side of “wait until further convincing evidence comes in”.
If you’re reading this, then a part of you believes it is possible, there is a way forward to transform your home to accommodate growing food. Let me tell you, it really doesn’t take very much space to start growing your own food, and when you add in the increased health benefits, social benefits, and economic benefits that come from a thriving, local food network, the value of a little space can be tremendous.
In the Grow Food Indoors program, you need enough space for a standard shelving unit (plastic or metal) and an amazing new vertical growing system, called the ZipGrow Tower. You need the shelving unit to grow the microgreens and seedlings, and store your supplies. My shelves are 4.5′ tall, 3′ wide, and 1.5′ deep. I use two sets of shelves side-by-side because I have a long narrow space.
The ZipGrow Tower together with a reservoir is called the Spring System and it has a very small footprint. See the image below. A single Spring System can grow enough for one person eating 100g of greens daily when its fully operational. The size and simplicity of a single Spring System make it an ideal instructional tool for all ages and abilities.
In the following images, I’ve scaled the shelf and Spring System to give you a rough sense of how much room you’d need to start growing your own food indoors. Keep in mind that the image contains the barebones minimum equipment, which is just enough to learn with. When you’re ready to start growing enough food to feed yourself and your family on a regular basis, you will need to scale up.
With that said, the obvious choice is the kitchen because it is designed for heavy use, has access to large drains and water lines, and is the spot where food processing and eating already takes place. Placing the garden right in the middle of your daily habits, ensures that you’re managing your garden on a regular basis, and most importantly – eating your harvests! The downside is that most kitchens cannot be easily re-arranged to accommodate more stuff. With high traffic and heavy use, Kitchens are ideal from a functional perspective, but not an ergonomic perspective.
A Spare Room
The kitchen isn’t an easy option for larger families or households, which means we need to start looking for alternative spaces. In the above image, I’ve put the garden materials in a spare room. The upside is that you can isolate the garden away from your other household activities, because, for some, the supplemental light and noise from pumps is unappealing and a major turn-off. The downside is that the garden is located far from drains and water lines, which means its harder to maintain your garden, and the harder something is to do, the easier it is to “put it off”. Hint hint.
I’ve built indoor gardens in basements and that works very well because there tends to be access to drains and water and there is much less concern for damaging floors. Unfinished basements are great because we can play and experiment with our garden and not worry about affecting the quality of life in other highly used rooms like the living room or dining room. Again, the downside is the distance between the garden and the kitchen. If something is out of sight, it’s out of mind.
Another space that we can use, is the bedroom. The upside is that you can monitor your plants all day and ensure they are getting everything they need to thrive. The downside is that there are lights and pumps running in your room. The light is easy to contain with heavy duty black poly. The white noise from the pumps and timers is not an issue for anyone who likes white noise. For others, that might be a deal-breaker.
Living Room / Dining Room
Like other rooms mentioned above, the living room and/or dining room are just as capable of growing food; however, my gut tells me those are tough nuts to crack for people. So I’ll just state that, “yes”, you can grow food in ANY room in your home if you really believe that the value of growing your food has a higher priority then whatever else is happening in the area you will need for the shelf and growing system.
If you’ve read this far, and you’re still not convinced that you can find a location in your home to re-imagine/re-purpose for growing food, then the next step for you is to explore the reasons you’re interested in growing food and the reasons that you can’t move forward and let me know where the gap is either in the comments below or via email. If you would like to schedule a one-on-one consultation with me to discuss your particular situation, please send a message to support(at)www.growfoodindoors.ca with some details, and I’ll be happy to get back to you.
Growing my own food and inspiring others to do the same delivers real results (not just green recommendations or green shaming) that can solve so many interconnected problems. For example, I am taking an active role in Edmonton to reconnect children to food so that they know where it comes from, how to grow it, and how food affects their health at all levels. By engaging with schools and teachers to integrate urban agriculture into schools we can reach those that are most vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition, children. Urban Agriculture also creates meaningful jobs that can bring money into a region in addition to bringing food into urban areas where healthy food options are limited.
As the growing awareness around food security, rising food prices, and community resilience begins to stir people into action, the conversation around growing food is going to start becoming more and more important, and I want you to be prepared.
In my life, it has taken years of research and trial and error to develop the knowledge and skills to re-imagine my living space as a place to grow my food. And now when I wake up everyday, instead of pets I have an indoor garden… pets and gardens thrive with the same amount of love and attention, only gardens are edible 😉
And that’s the bottom line with growing your own food, it really is a daily practice of love and attention that will feed your body, your soul, your family and your community. That’s the power of growing food.
There are two upcoming webinars where I will speak more about these issues and how you can start. Register your spot to receive the webinar details.
Grow Food Indoors Program Launches November 10, 2015.
Select which day works best for and register for that course offering.
Join the conversation below!
I’m curious how you have transformed your home to grow food, or the hurdles you currently face. Post your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.