It’s Time to SEEDifferently

Blazing summer heat didn’t deter 10-year-old Destiny Gonzales. A participant in the summer program at Dupont YMCA, she wanted to make sure the thirsty seedlings she had helped to plant would thrive. As a part of the SEEDifferently program initiative started at the First Coast YMCA with Atlantic Urban Beach Farms, summer program participants like Destiny have learned the value and importance of gardening through use of hydroponic growth towers.

The ultimate goal of SEEDifferently is to increase interest in the gardening process amongst children and families while teaching about nutrition, sustainability, diversity, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Destiny became interested in urban gardening after seeing the towers one day while at the Y. “I remember watching [it], and me and my friend went up and asked if we could help”, said Gonzales.

“I just remember looking at it and being intimidated- it was this beautiful structure and I didn’t have any gardening experience”, said Katherine Cox as she recalls her first time seeing a growth tower.

An AmeriCorps worker, Cox explained that the science behind the unusual-looking towers is what makes the process revolutionary. “The 6 feet tall cylinder structures recycle water, take up little space, and are relatively easy to maintain. After seedlings are planted, produce forms within 3-4 weeks, making it much more efficient than traditional soil-based gardening methods”, she explained.

Cox has seen SEEDifferently bloom into a program that has really positively impacted families in our local Duval community who do not have easily obtainable and affordable nutritious foods available.

“I realized that food deserts and food security was a really big problem”, said Cox. In order to help, she decided to create a harvest lottery for families- drawing names and donating fresh produce that was grown on site. Soon other YMCA staff and schools in the community (including Tiger Academy Charter School) began learning about the initiative and have also implemented Seedifferently and harvest lottery programs.

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