What’s growing inside of an old swimming pool, sitting in the brutal Arizona heat, is something that can give us all a little more hope for the future!
We’d like to introduce you to a family producing almost all of the food they need—from eggs to vegetables to fish—in the empty pool in their backyard. It’s a set up that can be recreated anywhere, in almost any climate, to produce the food that we need!
This kind of innovative thinking—making something completely new from what you already have at hand—is what our shared future calls for. What this family is driving at is called “Closed Loop” thinking, and you’ll probably be hearing that phrase a lot in the coming years. So we’ll get you started with this article!
If all the grocery stores in the world disappeared tomorrow, most of us wouldn’t have access to the food that we need.
Think about it, the number of us who actually know how to grow our own food is small. And as our urban areas continue to grow in size, those of us who actually have the space to grow a substantial amount of food is even smaller! Our ability to be independent when it comes to feeding and taking care of ourselves is dismal.
But in the town of Mesa, Arizona, an old swimming pool sits in the ground with a new purpose. Instead of being filled with thousands of gallons of water, this structure is now home to a rich and thriving food system—a surprising feat in the Arizona heat.
In 2009, the McClung family turned the pool into an aquaponic greenhouse as a part of their mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. And the results are phenomenal!
The Garden Pool has reduced their monthly grocery bills by at least 50%. And the symbiotic system uses approximately 90% less water than traditional farming methods!
They show all of us how it’s possible to sustain ourselves, even in climates that aren’t seen as welcoming.
Take a look at this article from Urban Gardens Web to see a more detailed account of how the system functions!
You can see more great content from Dark Rye over on their Vimeo! They’re dedicated to bringing the fascinating stories behind our food to us. And they do it in such a beautiful way!
They’ve recently been absorbed by Whole Foods, so you can find even more videos over on their YouTube channel. To stay up to date with their films, make sure you give Whole Foods a follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Beyond the Garden Pool
Today Garden Pool is doing so much more than maintaining their own system! They became a 501(c)3 international public charity in 2012 dedicated to helping people around the world find food security. They offer online classes, help with designs for garden pools, provide access to free seeds, have created a solar-powered water sterilization system, and so much more. Learn all about what they’re up to over on their website by clicking here.
If you are looking for a more detailed account of how they’ve been helping people around the world develop better agriculture systems, check out this awesome article from Deborah Bach for Microsoft.
Garden Pool has helped Haiti rebuild with better systems after their 2010 earthquake, worked inside a Trinidad prison to bring in healthy food to inmates, and impacted dozens of countries around the world. The abovementioned piece is a wonderful look into all that they’ve accomplished and are moving towards in the future! Take a look.
And for behind the scenes looks at the builds that go into creating some of these gardens around the world, head over to Garden Pool’s YouTube channel!
So, what if you have even less space than a pool available?
There are still ways to grow the food you need! Even if you have a small patch of dirt in front of your house, you can grow something. Take a look at the movement this man started to increase access to nourishing food in his community. It may give you a few ideas!
Garden Pool shows us how simple it can be to close the loop.
Sure, it takes a bit of planning and foresight concerning how everything is connected, but it’s possible, for every one of us to get creative about the use and reuse of the things we purchase and produce as waste. Here’s the formal definition of “Closed Loop Thinking” from a terrific article at Greatist.
By definition, a closed-loop system is one in which every component (be it manufacturing, food, or anything else) is recirculated within that same system for as long as possible. The ultimate goal is to reuse, recycle, or biodegrade all materials involved so as to produce zero waste. 2
With that definition in mind, we can think twice about everything we buy and consume, and get creative!
But will this sort of system really feed everyone?
A well-known trick with problem-solving is to break the issue we’re facing down into small, more manageable pieces. While one backyard aquaponic swimming pool garden may not feed an entire country, many might.
Instead of focusing on feeding the masses, what would happen if we first focused on developing the best systems to reduce food scarcity for our own families and communities?
Starting small gives us space to play and develop the best systems for what we need. There isn’t as much risk. And the knowledge that numerous people will obtain from trial and error while building their own systems will be shared between us all, making our world stronger and more prepared as a whole!
We always have options!
Looking around and finding new ways to use what we already have is really the basis of how humanity has made it this far. We’re crafty beings. When faced with a problem, we’re skilled at coming up with genius ways to make our lives easier.
From creating the wheel to buttoning up our pants, and all of our many pursuits in agriculture, we’ve always found a way of making our lives more efficient. We aren’t perfect—we never will be—but our skills in adaptation and problem-solving will always be here to help us out.
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein
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- “Garden Pool.” Vimeo, Dark Rye, 6 Aug. 2012, vimeo.com/47036399. Accessed 19 Mar. 2019. ↩
- Newcomer, Laura. “How a Simple Mindset Shift Can Help the Entire Planet.” Greatist, Greatist, 9 Sept. 2016, greatist.com/live/closed-loop-how-it-can-help-the-planet. Accessed 26 Mar. 2019. ↩