NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — For years, Taylor O’Sullivan dreamed of growing her own vegetables. But living in a 2nd floor studio apartment in Newport Beach, she realized that was a hard row to hoe.
“I thought I was going to have to wait until I was retired and moved to the country to have a garden,” O'Sullivan said.
But then a friend introduced her to hydroponics, a high-tech vertical farming system that can be done right on your balcony or rooftop.
“The first time that I saw it I was completely blown away,” she said. “I was like, ‘I gotta have one of these.’”
Now O’Sullivan, a city girl who until recently had a poor track record of keeping plants alive, is harvesting everything from kale to basil to arugula.
“You put down your phone, you come out here, you’re in sunshine. I can’t even express to you how much joy growing your own fruits and vegetables really brings into your life," she said.
Simply put, hydroponics is an agricultural method that skips the soil. Each plant is housed in a plastic pod. Their exposed roots then dangle over a circulating pool of nutrient-rich water.
Since the pandemic, the vertical farm industry has seen a boost, stemming from people like O’Sullivan who are looking for entertainment and a way to reduce trips to the grocery store.
According to LA Urban Farms, where O’Sullivan bought her vertical garden, sales have tripled in the last year.
The cost is $600 for the tower and another $2 per seedling. For O’Sullivan, that’s the equivalent of about two months' worth of store-bought veggies.
“During this quarantine I have been able to grow so much produce from this little tower that 70% of my diet was what I was growing right here,” she said. “I have to say food tastes so much better when you grow it yourself."