Big Bear City, CA, August 11, 2014 – The Big Bear Valley is keeping step with what’s become a national mainstream trend: growing local, organic food.

Last April, educator Stephen Ritz brought his message of healing the food system to the annual Lighthouse Summit–inspiring many audience members to ditch fast food in favor of more fresh produce. Known as the Bronx Gardener, Ritz taught his students in New York to grow vegetables in the classroom with vertical gardens, producing both healthy meals and jobs for youth. Last week, he brought his commitment back to our community to help install tower gardens at select classrooms in the Bear Valley Unified School District.

The District used general unrestricted funds to buy 12 tower gardens, complete with energy-saving T5 grow lights, at just over $1,300 each (totalling $15,779). The tower gardens were distributed among the five school sites: Big Bear Elementary, Baldwin Lane Elementary, North Shore Elementary, Big Bear Middle School and Big Bear High School.

There are several advantages to these “edible walls.” Most noticeably, using aeroponics eliminates the need for soil. The tower structures are made from food-grade plastic, so they’re free of the harmful components found in agriculture-grade plastics. Growing vertically also uses up to 90% less land, and because the nutrient solution is recycled, up to 95% less water is used than with conventional organic farming.

The result is more nutritious, chemical-free, faster growing plants. The growing cycle is said to be just 30 days, and KBHR will post a photo when the food is all grown up.

Aeroponic systems require no soil.