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Foody stacks up against old-style farming methods

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Greg Hendrick, president and CEO of Feed Our Planet, checks pepper plants growing in his dining room Foody, a vertical growing tower for veggies and flowers.

WENATCHEE — Strawberries and peppers thrive at chest level in Greg and Brenda Hendrick’s home. Lush spinach and tomato plants grow at waist height. Dill, thyme, basil and other kitchen herbs flourish closer to the floor.

The sunny spot in the Hendrick’s dining room is an oasis of edible and decorative plants — more than 120 in all — fed by a fountain of nutrients circulated in four vertical growing towers, each one called a Foody.

A Foody is a vertical growing system that uses either soil or a hydroponic medium to cultivate plants indoors or outdoors. It’s basically a stack of growing containers designed for clean, efficient and low-cost food production.

Size: The Foody has a footprint of just over 2 feet square. Each tower’s height depends on the number of stacked growing containers. A stack of five, which can contain up to 38 plants, measures just over 5 feet tall.

Cost: A Foody 5 (five stacked units) costs $199, plus another $100 for a hydroponic system.

Info: Call Greg Hendrick, president and CEO of Feed Our Planet, at (509) 293-2628, or visit feedourplanet.com.

— Mike Irwin, World staff

Our passion is to make food-growing more possible for a larger number of people,” said Greg, the 61-year-old president and CEO of Feed Our Planet, an international distribution company for Foody towers based in Wenatchee and the Bahamas. “We think that growing your own food is good for the body and the soul.”

In a space measuring just over 2-feet-square and 5-feet-tall, a Foody tower holds up to six levels of soil or hydroponic medium — clay spheres or recycled glass chunks — to grow up to 38 plants. Veggies and flowers can be watered and fed manually or with a custom hydroponic system that runs up the Foody’s center column. The towers are designed for both residential and commercial uses.

The beauty of the system is that it’s versatile,” said Greg Hendrick. “You can grow food indoors, outdoors, in a kitchen or greenhouse, on apartment balconies or backyard patios or decks. It means you can grow food year-round that’s more easily protected from harsh environments — from cold, heat, bugs or urban pollution.”

A farmer living on a small island off the coast of Korea invented the Foody in his search for alternative methods to traditional farming. In the Bahamas, retired RAF pilot Peter Michie, discovered the Foody after he’d donated a vertical growing tower to a local school and noted the speedy growth rate of the hydroponically-grown plants.

Last year, Greg Hendrick attended a Florida workshop on aquaponics, a blend of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics, and fell in love with vertical growing systems — the Foody in particular — and decided to join the cause.

He soon bought half of the Feed Our Planet company and last December was named president and CEO. He has taken on the task of marketing the 2-year-old enterprise, which has included a new logo, promotional video and spiffed-up website.

Born and raised to orchardists near Omak — “Dad always said we had apple juice in our veins” — the adult Hendrick found a career in the fruit business in Chelan. Ten years ago, he and his wife traveled with Free Methodist World Missions to the Ukraine to, among other tasks, “teach kids to grow things.” They moved to Wenatchee about 18 months ago.

Wenatchee is the perfect place to run this business,” said Hendrick. “It has its own agricultural culture, is centrally located between Seattle and Spokane and is small enough for personal, face-to-face market outreach in the schools and nurseries in the area.”

Hendrick said students get particularly excited with the hands-on experience of growing food in a corner of the classroom. Right now, he said, Foody towers are producing veggies and herbs at Wenatchee Valley College and a high school in Everett, with plans for further installations in elementary schools in Wenatchee and Vancouver, B.C.

For many students, it’s their first introduction to the relationship between eating food and growing food,” said Hendrick. “Many are simply amazed that this green thing is growing right before their eyes.”

Mike Irwin: 665-1179

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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