The hydroponic farm inside the Giving Plate food pantry is expanding after being disrupted by the pandemic. The farm, built on-site at the Giving Plate, is a collaboration with the nonprofit Around the Bend Farms, which aims to produce locally grown, nutritious vegetables for people in Bend who are food insecure or do not have access to fresh produce. The project also hopes to make vertical, hydroponic farming more accessible to the general public, and in addition to providing nutritious food, hopes to teach people about the importance of nutrition, and to spark interest in farming.
Bend is a High Desert region with a growing population that relies on food being trucked in from places like the Willamette Valley. The current model of growing food on traditional agricultural farms, harvesting it and then trucking it long distances is not only costly, but trucking food means it is less nutritious by the time it reaches a table.
Hydroponic gardens use water, not soil, to grow vegetables. Nutrients are dissolved in the water, which allows the produce to grow much faster.
The farm inside the Giving Plate was built and producing food in the summer of 2020, but the project struggled to stay open at times during the pandemic. The farm started by producing leafy vegetables like lettuces and kale, and now plans are in motion to improve the farm’s technology and to grow other types of produce.
Marsh said it was difficult to keep things moving with only volunteers, so Around the Bend Farms and the Giving Plate recently hired a farm manager to run the day-to-day operations and to help push the project forward.
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