Tower Gardens project a big success

Abigial Eyler, Staff writer

Mercyhurst has recently welcomed a new sustainability initiative in the form of Tower Gardens. Through this initiative, students can see the growth of plants occurring inside the Audrey Hirt Academic Center.

The tower gardens are a form of aeroponic growing, which means that the plants grow from mist and the air. They do not rely on soil, nor do they rely on a large

amount of water, as is needed in hydroponic growing.

The types of plants being grown include lettuce, kale, arugula and basil.

Shannon Meyers, Mercyhurst alumnus from the class of 2020, is also the developer of the Tower Garden program at Mercyhurst.

“While some plants that grow better outdoors in the dirt like peppers or cucumbers in comparison to the Tower Garden, but leafy greens like lettuce and kale thrive in the Tower,” said Meyers.

While all types of gardening are important, one thing to note about the tower gardens is year long access. When considering the Erie climate, the ground freezes over in the winter resulting in a period of no agricultural growth, so the tower gardens are quite helpful.

Another important element of the Tower Garden is that they are community supported agriculture (CSA). This means that the gardens are not only sustainable,

but through community maintenance, they can continue to involve the Mercyhurst community.

“What I love about the Towers is that at surface level, it seems like it’s only about public health or sustainability, but it’s so much more than that,” said Meyers.

She elaborated by saying that business majors can learn about how to run a CSA, intelligence students can learn about the risks of climate change and how supply chains are in effect. Even art students can learn from tower gardens as there are currently art installations that touch upon food insecurity.

The Tower Gardens represent sustainability and public health as a combination. Through the use of the tower gardens, one can grow vegetables while not taking up much space.  “The Towers are the future of gardening as urban development becomes more of a problem.”

“By growing vertically, taking up little space and using clean nutrients for proper growth, etc. that is sustainability. The towers promote public health in the sense that eating healthy is important for a long, healthy and happy life,” said Meyers.

Particularly, in urban centers, community supported agriculture has been largely supported, seen through community gardens that are soil-based or hydroponic.

The program has also started to venture outside of the Mercyhurst community through the Tower Garden Lending Program started by Meyers.

Meyers said of the program, “The purpose of the lending program is to give an opportunity to city of Erie non-profit organizations and Erie County K12 public schools to use Tower Gardens as a learning tool at an affordable price.”

“In addition to borrowing one or more towers, organizations/ schools will have access to resources through the University to assist with the implementation of the program, set up, maintenance and facilitation of learning.” The Tower Garden program also helps Erie, as Erie is not only an urban center, but also has a shortened growing season.

One of the important things to note is the separation between the CSA and the Grotto’s Tower Garden. While both are launched as sustainability initiatives, the food at the Grotto’s Tower Garden is used to cook with. When looking at the salad bar, it sometimes features a sign saying that an item was grown using the Tower Gardens.

Meyers said about student involvement, “I would love to see more on campus and have more students get involved and take ownership of them.”

Student involvement can always be used considering that Meyers along with one other person are in charge of the maintenance of the gardens.

Meyers closed her interview by saying, “Everyone can learn something from growing plants and Tower Gardens.”