Growing Peace

This interview details Growing Peace, an indoor farming company based in the United States. The interview is with Steven Hoffen, Founder of Growing Peace.

Source: Growing Peace

What is the origin story of Growing Peace?

The origin story of Growing Peace can be broken up into three parts. It all started when I visited Sindyanna of Galilee in the summer of 2019 with my family, and I learned about how they were working to foster strong relations between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel by engaging women from each group in activities where they collaborate with one another. I was so inspired by their mission that I created a documentary called Growing Peace in the Middle East about their organization, and specifically, about their hydroponics project where they install hydroponic farming systems in the homes of Arab women to provide them with fresh produce among other benefits. 

The second part of the story came when my film gained a lot of recognition through film festivals. While in Israel, I had also visited an agricultural company called Volcani, and we got back in touch because they saw my documentary. Their leadership staff introduced me to the Mesila Lasova food pantry in Tel Aviv, where they were hoping to install a hydroponics system to help feed the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who come to the food pantry. I used my Bar-Mitzvah as a chance to fundraise for the effort, and that money combined with my film festival prize money allowed me to completely fund the Mesila Lasova hydroponics system—this was the start of Growing Peace as a nonprofit! 

Source: Growing Peace

The final part of Growing Peace’s origin came when I met an incredible woman named Topeka Sam, who presented to my school about her life and the organization she founded called the Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM). I was inspired by her mission to end poverty and the incarceration of women, and I learned that LOHM had a project called “Hope Houses” that provides housing and education for previously incarcerated women. I suddenly realized that I could implement my Israeli hydroponics ventures in my local area as well, and began working to install a hydroponics system at the Hope House that would provide fresh food and business experience to the women living there—as they could also sell uneaten produce. That effort has now expanded to multiple partner organizations across New York!

Source: Growing Peace

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Growing Peace in the future? 

Because I am the only “official” member of Growing Peace (although I do want to recognize the many generous individuals and groups who have supported me), it will only become more difficult to stay personally involved at each new project site—especially once the installation is complete. Currently, I maintain my connection with each of the partner organizations through personally volunteering and monitoring the sites, but I can only be in so many places at once. I am hoping to address this issue by creating a combined youth and adult led board to help manage Growing Peace’s projects, and keep tabs on each one to ensure the site’s success in the long term. Additionally, I want to continue to emphasize Growing Peace’s partnership model as we scale, which allows us to educate members of the community where we install the site on hydroponics, empowering them to run the system entirely on their own. 

Source: Growing Peace

The other main challenge that Growing Peace will have to overcome is keeping up fundraising momentum. Because so many within my own network have already generously donated, I need to continue reaching new audiences who want to donate towards our efforts. Additionally, because I have already submitted applications to so many grants and prizes, I’ll have to continue my search for new opportunities and evaluate if I can receive additional funding from previous resources I have already utilized. I’ve worked to get ahead of this potential problem by continuing to expand my knowledge on critical skills such as grant writing, event-planning, and research into funding opportunities.

Source: Growing Peace

What is the typical size of your growing areas? 

Depending on the available space that can be utilized for my organization’s hydroponic towers, the growing areas usually range from about 250-400 square feet. Because our hydroponics systems utilize vertical farming, the height of the ceilings also has an impact on the systems we can install. In a location with lower ceilings, we can’t build the towers as high, but in a location with taller ceilings, we can continue to stack tower blocks like LEGO bricks to achieve higher yield. Our New York systems usually fit about 6-8 towers per site, with each tower ranging from 6 ½ to 7 ½ feet in height. 

While our growing areas might seem small, the benefit of vertical farming with hydroponics is how space efficient the systems are. An average site produces around 3,000 servings of produce annually, and just one site can help feed thousands of people every year! The Tel Aviv hydroponics system in particular is highly productive, as it takes up over 700 square feet and creates 25,000 servings annually all on its own!

Source: Growing Peace

How can people connect with you or learn more about Growing Peace?

We have all kinds of social media and website platforms that readers can check out! The company website is the most comprehensive, but here’s a full list:

Website: growingpeaceinc.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/growingpeaceinc/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/growingpeaceinc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/growingpeaceinc

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/growingpeaceinc/

Source: Growing Peac

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