Onward & Upward: Filling the Hunger Gaps with Vertical Farming

By Jonathan Veit and Malisia Wilkins

Last week I received an email that said:

Vertical garden pallet in hall at #173 P&A today only
HORT 408: Inquiry & Discovery
Vertical Pallet Garden
Malisia Wilkins & Allison Kelly
Designed as a prototype to feed the hungry in small space urban environments

The email was from Ellen Vincent, SAFES environmental horticulture professor and extension associate. Ellen is one of those professors who demands that her students engage with the world around them in meaningful and creative ways, so I decided I had to see what this “vertical pallet garden” was all about.

Leaning up against the wall outside Ellen’s door was a verdant and beautiful little garden that was built using half a wooden pallet of the kind one would find in Sam’s Club or Lowes or any other “big box” store. The garden was a whimsical vacation from the fluorescent lights and linoleum of the P&A building.

It was so simple that I didn’t understand its power. At first I thought, “This is really cute. It’s a project that I can build with Mary Linda (my 5-year-old daughter).”

Then Ellen explained to me that it was far more than just an arts and crafts project; that it could be a solution to the problem of food deserts, and that it was designed and built by Malisia Wilkins and Allison Kelly, students in HORT 408: Discovery and Inquiry.

What follows is the story of how the vertical pallet garden came to be as written by Malisia Wilkins. But to understand completely the power of the vertical pallet garden, you need to download and read the literature review:

Have you ever gone hungry? I don’t mean you skipped breakfast and lunch is long past due. Think of hunger more in terms of, you can’t remember the last time you ate. Many people throughout the world suffer from an inability to obtain healthy, nutritious foods, specifically fresh fruits and vegetables. Food deserts are geographic locations where access to food is limited or not available. It seems unimaginable to most people, but there are hundreds of thousands of people living in food deserts right here in South Carolina. Throughout the United States, communities have come together to help feed those in need through the establishment of community gardens, community supported agriculture, and farmers’ markets. Although these organizations provide much needed assistance, there is still so many more in need. These organizations also require funding and skilled volunteers dedicated to working, in some cases full-time, in order to ensure success.

Most people want to help, but don’t have the money or the time, and give up because they don’t believe they can possibly make a difference on their own. I’m a firm believer in thinking globally, but acting locally and I find myself constantly wondering, how can I make a difference? Between my own desire to feed the hungry and the ‘Do it yourself’ network I found vertical pallet gardens. Now by no means am I saying vertical pallet gardens will put an end to hunger, or solve the problem we see in food deserts, but it does put the power in the hands of individual people. For what it costs, in time and money, to go to dinner and a movie you could build a pallet garden capable of providing a family of four with supplemental nutrition. With help from my design partner, Allison Kelly, we have created a guide to help you build your own pallet garden. Please join us, and together we can make a difference!

Onward & Upward Literature Review (MS Word Doc)

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