All It Took Was a Teacher Who Had a Dream
Walton Middle School is about an hour East of Pensecola, Florida. Agricultural teacher, Joe Proffitt became aware of the Tower Garden and immediately knew it was something he wanted to use with his students.
- Why Tower Garden®?
I wanted to introduce myself and my students to hydroponics. We were going to build a gutter system and then a five-gallon bucket system here at the school. After many hours of research, I kept running into different individuals and businesses who were posting videos of the Tower Gardens on YouTube. We chose Tower Garden for two reasons. First, because of the design and second, because of all the resources that exists online. I even spoke to several people from the company. This resulted in taking a tour of Living Towers in Eustis, Fl. After that visit, my wife Amber and I were sold on the product. We jumped in with both feet and can’t wait to start harvesting beyond organic fruits and vegetables.
- What will they be used for?
We will use our Towers for education and we will also start a community CSA to raise money so we can purchase more towers. We will also feed our teachers, custodial staff and any student whose family may need some help. I have so many ideas! We just have to get started and see where this takes us.
- How many Tower Gardens did you start with and what is your plan for these?
We started with 25 and hope to build up to at least 50 by this time next year. We currently grow 15 outside and 10 inside with grow lights.
- What has been the reaction from the students, teachers and parents?
We are just getting started but our Superintendent of Schools, Russell Hughes and my friends love the idea. Students and teachers are also excited about the process. I plan on getting media coverage around the time of our first harvest. It will be a big deal!
- How many Tower Gardens would you like to have over time and will they be used for anything other than explained above?
I would love to have several hundred Tower Gardens over time. We don’t have available land to farm in the soil at our school. However, there is plenty of concrete. Additionally, I wouldn’t mind making some extra income in the future by opening up my own farmers market. We also may venture into seed starts and selling Tower Gardens to other schools.
- How were you able to raise the funds?
Currently, I have raised a little over forty thousand dollars by writing grants to various organizations. I just received $1,500 yesterday from a company based in Jacksonville (3 hours from here). The St. Joe Foundation gave us $25,000. That was what put us over the top. There are plenty of funding sources out there. You just have to do your research and take the time to write the grants. I’ve probably written twenty-five grants in all. Ten have turned me down. Ten have given us money and I’m still waiting to here back from five or six.
If you’re a teacher with a dream of setting something like this up in your school, we need to speak.