Sustainable practices are not a trend, but a lifestyle adjustment — and more people are learning techniques to better utilize their resources in ways that benefit the environment; one way is through sustainable food.
Garden Pool in Mesa has the resources to help others become self-sufficient through its food system. It has been a fixture in the Mesa community since it was founded in 2009. The nonprofit organization is based in Mesa at the home of the original Garden Pool, after co-founders Dennis and Danielle McClung established Garden Pool in their backyard.
According to Garden Pool’s website, the miniature self-sufficient food system uses more than 98 percent less water than conventional farming methods, has next-to zero external inputs, uses no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and raises nutritious food.
“I think Mesa was the right place at the right time for what we were doing,” said Dennis, founder, president and CEO of Garden Pool. He said he and his wife Danielle, co-founder and operations manager of Garden Pool, bought their first home in October 2009 in Mesa and created their own personal garden pool. Shortly afterward, they put a video about the garden pool on YouTube and it blew up — people wanted to visit it, so they created a Meetup group and since people reached out to them to help with classes and build garden pools for them.
“In a garden pool, typically we store rain or dew water in a pond, and in the pond, we grow fish, typically tilapia, and we have a solar-powered pump that distributes that water to our soil-less greenhouse,” said Dennis. “It just recycles nutrients…you don’t have to get chemicals or fertilizer, so we can put them out in refugee camps or in the middle of nowhere, so it works out in a lot of places.”
Danielle said Garden Pool is very scalable, as they have built large, commercial agriculture farms in the Dominican Republic, or have adjusted for a 10-gallon fish tank, “we use nature towards our advantage and gravity,” Danielle said. In addition, “The Garden Pool system not only is amazing in a desert climate, but it’s also amazing in a Caribbean-type climate, it can be used in colder climates, so it’s very versatile as well.”
Garden Pool’s three main programs that started in Mesa include their public seed libraries, Fruit Trees for Community or FT4C, with over 75 varieties of fruit, nut, berry and tropical fruit trees to choose from to plant, and their global programs.
In addition, Garden Pool has university partnerships with Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and expanded their reach internationally as well to work with the University of Nairobi Kenya and the United States International University Africa in Kenya. Garden Pool also has internship and mentorship programs for students, and emphasize the importance of sustainable food through education in their classes, presentations and workshops.
“We are educational at the heart of our organization, so we believe in hands-on education,” Dennis said, citing the large public turnout for volunteer builds, projects and seed-packing parties.
“We’re actually trying to expand our educational component, we have the Mesa Green Center Initiative on the Imagine Mesa website,” Danielle said. “So, at the Mesa Green Center, we could be able to facilitate local classes all of the time, have a farmer’s market, other people can educate there as well, it would have a community garden and a plant nursery for edibles that grow well here.”
Dennis said Garden Pool is part of the Mesa community, and with about 1,500 local volunteers who live in or near Mesa, people are supporting Garden Pool’s programs and helping them expand their reach and ability to build more gardens. In addition, Dennis said people who are supporting the Mesa Green Center Initiative aren’t just Garden Pool enthusiasts, “but people in general who think Mesa should be the leader in the Valley and the Southwest in general with sustainable food.”
The Mesa residents said Garden Pool is a very popular initiative, because the demand is so high for sustainability and people growing their own food.
“What we want to do with Garden Pool is try to be as impactful as we can and spread the information as far and wide as we can, especially for those who need it most,” Dennis said.
“I think everybody believes it’s something we want for the future of our community.”
“There’s so much growth here, and people are so unaware,” Danielle continued. “We grow so many different superfoods and plants from all over the world that are very nutritionally dense.” She said everything they grow is also completely organic.
Though Garden Pool has been successful, Dennis and Danielle aren’t going to slow down their progress anytime soon. They want to expand the educational component of their programs, and strengthen their partnerships locally and internationally.
“We’re working on some very big stuff globally,” Dennis said. “And what excites me about that is, let’s say I have five oversee bases in the next five years, I can bring all that I’ve learned in that community to our community too, and then weave a global web of knowledge of food production.”
Garden Pool headquarters will be opening in downtown Mesa soon on Main Street. Dennis said it will be open to the public 60 hours a week, so directors of the programs can come in and meet, as well as interns, and the various sub-communities within their own community who can have their own place to work.
Garden Pool’s next meetup to discuss Mesa Green Center is be this Saturday, Sept. 16, 1:30-2:30 p.m. at Mesa Public Library, 64 E. Main St. For more information, visit: Meetup.com/GardenPool.
Garden Pool is located at 659 E. Main St., Suite F, in Mesa. To learn more about Garden Pool, their programs, or to volunteer, visit: GardenPool.org.
– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com.