Sustany® Mini-Grant Seeds the “Hope Growers” Project

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Content

The Sustany® Foundation continues its program of mini-grants for sustainable projects in 2014.

The first recipient this year is Rexford Stanford. Rex had the bright idea of re-using the old recycling containers (the ones Tampa replaced last fall) as “grow boxes” at local schools. And thus was born the “Hope Growers” project.

Rex Stanford with "grow boxes" made from former recycling containers.
Rex Stanford with “grow boxes” made from former recycling containers.

Teaching kids where food comes from

Rex wanted to do more than just avoid sending lots of old recycling containers to landfills. Having grown up on a farm in Pennsylvania, he values the knowledge and experience he gained raising crops and dairy cows. He wants to “teach children how to grow their own food so they don’t go through life wondering how produce ends up on the store shelves.”

The old recycling containers make perfect planters for fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The first school to participate was the Bruce R. Wagner  (BRW) Elementary School in Lakeland. One Kindergarten and one First grade class teamed up to plant 18 boxes on January 31, 2014. And now, just weeks later, they are starting to harvest the first items: bags and bags of lettuce and bok choy. So many vegetables that the kids plan to sell salads to their teachers to raise money for class activities.

The next school was the Lake Alfred Elementary School in Lake Alfred. Their grow boxes were planted on March 7, 2014. And more schools are in the works. Boxes have also been donated to The Sustainable Living Project  and to ECHO (Emergency Care and Help Organization) in Brandon.

Kids are amazed at the huge lettuces they've grown!
Kids are amazed at the huge lettuces they’ve grown!

Hands-on learning lights a fire

As the vegetables grow, so do the kids! This program gives them both facts and a handson experience that enriches their lives. They learn about:

— Recycling. By re-using the old recycling containers instead of throwing them away.
— Where fruits and vegetables come from. And they learn this not from a book, but in a hands-on, exciting way. Kids that don’t eat salads are trying them now, and loving them.
— Produce types that are new to them. Like kale, bok choy, cucumbers, zucchini, snow peas, Swiss chard, watermelons, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, 3 varieties of lettuce, strawberries, beans, basil, collard greens, pineapples, rare melons, spinach and carrots.
— Sharing what they know with their families. At the BRW school, 17 of the 36 kids have started a garden with their families at home. The children journal every day about the progress of the plants, and Rex collects that data to help make the next school even better.

This is a positive experience that can help kids think differently about themselves and the world.

Kids have fun planting the grow boxes.
Kids have fun planting the grow boxes.

What’s ahead for Hope Growers in 2014?

According to Rex, “We are getting close to the end of the winter season and will be done installing schools for this term.  Over the summer, more boxes will be prepared. Starting in September, we hope to plant two school gardens a month through February, 2015.”

“During the hiatus from planting schools, we will be attending Ecofest to give a box building demo.  We will also attend other green-inspired sessions including Earth Day at the Sustainable Living Project in April.”

How to get in touch

For more information, call Rex at (386) 852-1928(386) 852-1928 or email him at  You can follow the progress of Hope Growers at and also on Facebook at “Hope Growers Community”.

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