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      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

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Getting the Poop Scoop on Autism

Filed in Autism, C. difficile, Children, fecal transplant, General, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/25/2017


Autism Hope

A report in Science Daily entitled “Autism symptoms improve after fecal transplant, small study finds” caught my eye immediately.

You see, in one of the episodes of my recent PBS special, Natural Health Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson, I interviewed a woman who had undergone fecal transplant with great success. She had been extremely ill with recurrent C. difficile bacterial infections when this innovative treatment was suggested. She felt she regained her life through this process. Now I see it’s being used to help young people with autism!

For those of you unaware of this procedure, fecal transplantation is done by processing donor feces and screening it for disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Then the “healthy” microbes are inserted into the participant’s digestive tract to rebalance the gut, known as the microbiome.

The boys and girls diagnosed with autism, ages 7 to 16, initially were administered a two week course of antibiotics to essentially wipe out existing bacteria, with hopes to start with a “clean slate”. Then doctors then gave the participants a high-dose fecal transplant of healthy donors’ bacteria and viruses in liquid form. Over the 7-8 weeks that followed the youngsters drank smoothies blended with a lower dose powder.

Although it was a small study (18 children), the results appeared to be extremely positive. Diarrhea and stomach pains decreased markedly – up to 82%, and parents also reported that behavioral autism symptoms significantly changed for the better. The study followed the participants for 8 weeks after the implantation, and positive results appeared to continue.

Researchers were also able to use laboratory testing to compare the autistic children’s bacterial diversity with their healthy peers following treatment. The participants’ bacterial diversity had improved to the point that the test results were indistinguishable from healthy children. This is such an important finding since previous research has shown that children with autism typically have less diversity of bacteria in their guts, and are also missing some important bacteria that are regarded as markers of a healthy microbiome, as I discussed in this blog.

The relationship between mental health and gut microbes has been researched often as well. So it seems logical that attempts to restore balance to the autistic child’s gut, as so many parents have worked to do over the years with great results through diet and probiotics, would and does result in better health.

It’s exciting to see that research may offer a more direct tool in the future with the potential to improve so many lives. As larger studies are done, it is hoped that researchers will uncover the precise bacteria and viruses that impact very specific diseases. What an interesting future we have to look forward to!

Sunlight Offers New Benefits

Filed in General, Immune System, Longevity, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/09/2017


Blue Healing Sunlight - brendawatson.com

Through the years I have blogged repeatedly on the importance of vitamin D to our immunity, and actually all aspects of our health. Today I read some interesting research out of Georgetown University Medical Center that suggests another powerful benefit of getting some sunlight on your skin – totally separate from vitamin D yet still related to our immune systems.

The researchers are talking about “blue light”. In fact, some of the positive attributes of vitamin D may actually be due to the helpful activity stimulated by this particular band of sunlight.

Apparently blue light actually makes your T cells move faster. The cells themselves literally respond to the light. In order to work, T cells need to move. Their job is to get to the site of an infection as quickly as possible, like you’re body’s own ambulance service. Sunlight increases how fast your T cell ambulances get to the scene of the accident!

Technically speaking, sunlight helps to create hydrogen peroxide in T cells, and that hydrogen peroxide is what makes them move, like gasoline for the ambulance.

Interestingly, stimulating vitamin D through the skin requires UV light, too much of which can promote skin cancer, however it seems this blue light is very safe. Of course the next step is to determine how much blue light might be most effective in a therapeutic situation and possibly apply that through blue light lamps to increase immunity and health.

Those of us familiar with alternative therapies are no strangers to various light therapies. I love to see scientific research supporting the practices that many of us have embraced decades ago.

As winter is upon us it may become much more difficult to spend time in the sunshine, although most of us realize the benefits. Supplementing with vitamin D is always an excellent choice, and also adding in vitamin K as support adds even more benefit. I’d like to encourage you to consider an outdoor activity with friends and family that will up your exposure to the blue in sunlight, and make some great memories as well.

Social Media for Weight Loss

Filed in Adults, Diet, Fermentation, General, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Jemma Sinclaire on 12/27/2016


Social Media Support

By now we’ve traversed the majority of the most sinful food offerings this holiday season, and the residuals may still be with us on our hips. No worries. Let’s simply begin again. It’s time to make a few sincere decisions to enjoy some different foods and behaviors to usher in a healthier new year. Notice I mentioned different foods – not less. I’m not talking about deprivation here. So please let’s consider how using social media may drive success.

Are you thinking – “what?” I know – neither Facebook or Twitter taste delicious. Not a lot of calories are burned as you furiously type. And I still insist that social media can make a great impact on your health – no chewing required.

Would you agree that the trick to creating a positive outcome around any goal you set is accountability? In my experience, goals really do manifest when we write them down and – here’s the most important part – when we tell other people. We recently experienced that first hand with our Skinny Gut Diet group.

So think about it – where better than on Facebook or Twitter to announce your intentions to your friends – all at once? You will undoubtedly get lots of “likes”, a few “loves” and many words of support. These can be motivational nuggets when those treats you’ve gotten used to nibbling on over the holidays seem to be calling your name. We’ve had a Skinny Gut Facebook closed group for some time now. Stop by and check it out. You’ll notice a lot of evidence of tremendous motivation and encouragement there!

You may even find that a few of your friends continue to inquire as to how you’re progressing toward your objectives. Again, support and encouragement are vital to reaching any goal that makes a difference in your life! I think you may find others eager to join in your commitment too! Stating a goal publicly is courageous, and inspiring beyond what you might imagine!

Moving into 2017, I challenge you to get creative and design some new habits around your food choices. Fermenting veggies is totally fun and easy, and you know these efforts will ultimately be a great gift for everyone’s digestion and waistline! Here’s even a probiotic-rich dessert snack, perfect for football season, that provides those good bacteria and is amazingly delicious.

Let’s face it, deprivation rarely results in a real-life eating plan that makes a long term difference. The trick is to find a program that offers simple concepts and basic rules for success. Also recipes that provide a lot of tasty enjoyment and at the same time, contain healthy ingredients. I’m very proud of my book Skinny Gut Diet, as I have seen hundreds of people make real lifestyle changes and enjoy great success with the program.

We are so fortunate these days to have many options and ways to substitute ingredients to surprise our friends and neighbors. My favorites are grain free, gluten free, minimal sugar recipes. Recently I blogged on making brownies with pinto beans and a bit of almond flour. I’d suggest you wait to mention the pinto beans until your friends are chewing up their last bite. They’ll be clamoring for the recipe, no doubt. It’s so much fun to create guilt-free decadent desserts! Post those on social media too to spread the fun around~

Most importantly, don’t by shy – share your triumphant moments! We can all succeed together as your own determination and momentum builds. Happy healthy motivated 2017 to you!

Fall for Ugly Veggies!

Filed in Gardening, General, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/15/2016


Ugly Veggies - brendawatson.com

I’d like to think that farmers are smiling across America (and hopefully receiving a bit more profit from their labor intensive work!) A new craze I read about in the Wall Street Journal takes a second and third look at previously discarded ugly veggies!

As you walk down the produce aisle of your favorite grocer, have you ever wondered what happens to all the fruits and vegetables that are misshapen, had a blemish, or were otherwise not picture perfect? If you’ve ever had even a small garden you must realize that not all of the offerings look as though they are “ready for their close-ups”! True life just doesn’t look perfect, although produce in most grocery aisles might lead you to believe otherwise.

Steve Lutz from CMI Orchards in Washington was thrilled to get a call from Walmart! They were piloting an “ugly-apple” project and wondered if he had any contenders. His unattractive apples, blemished by hail, might previously have been sold for a loss on the juice market. Although he’ll not receive top dollar for his misfits, the produce would be purchased at a reasonable price. I’d say that call was a blessing!

I didn’t realize that farmers in Minnesota report that roughly 20% of their produce is deemed cosmetically imperfect by industry standards! That’s a huge amount of waste and loss.

Good news for the consumer – the “homely” crops will generally cost us less. And even better news is that their taste will be as good, sometimes even an improvement over their gorgeous counterparts. Once truly ripe, we’ve all experienced that although seemingly “ugly veggies” may be less visually appealing, their flavors can often be rich and wonderful.

Meet “spuglies” which are potatoes considered too big, too small or blemished, a mangled heirloom tomato with the tagline “a scarred heart can still be a beautiful one”, or perhaps a three legged carrot or plums with proboscises. Grocers are getting creative with names, hoping that the “Hip-Hip Carrot” that has extra arms wrapped around its trunk might inspire customers to give an ugly vegetable a try. You may be seeing relatives of these and other offerings at a Walmart or Whole Foods near you~

It was reported in an August Nielsen/Harris Poll of more than 2,000 adults that most customers still aren’t particularly excited about buying ugly produce, even thought they said the produce “looked cool”. Eight percent said they might buy a twisted cucumber out of pity.

Pity! Some of the most delicious cucumbers I’ve ever eaten were twisted like they had macaroni in their genes. I guess I’m just blessed to have experienced gardens where I’ve learned to love the myriad differences that Nature provides.

I’m with Kathy Means of the Produce Marketing Association when she says “We don’t care if it’s a mutt or a purebred or small. It can be ugly or conventional or whole. We just need people to eat more produce.” I’m sure she’s speaking from a financial perspective, however I’m thinking of the health of Americans! Rule #2 from Skinny Gut Diet – “Eat living foods every day to balance your gut!”

I can see it now. Someone is going to come up with “Fermented Uglies” and make a fortune!

Chris Tantau, a California peach grower, says it best – “All my children are beautiful”. I couldn’t agree more~

Waste Not, Want Not Provides Nobel Prize

Filed in Cleansing & Detox, General, Parasites, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/08/2016


I was thrilled to read about the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine this year – Japanese biologist Yohinori Ohsumi. His research is based in thought processes after my own heart! He is explaining how our body’s cells deal with and recycle waste (as in detox!) and it seems this information is paving the way for treatments of many diseases down the line. Not surprising to me.

Dr. Ohsumi’s work is on a process you may not have heard about – autophagy. That literally means “self-eating” – and it helps us understand how cellular components are broken down and then recycled. Our cells do this constantly. See, recycling is not new – nothing is new under the sun.

And how exciting is this? Due to autophagy cells literally convert waste to energy and also building blocks for the renewal of other parts of cells. As always, our bodies are truly magnificent~

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Ohsumi shared that his research area was important because cells couldn’t function without “quality control” and a way of repurposing what was no longer functional. We are learning that same lesson the hard way as we rush to find ways to revitalize our polluted oceans and waterways.

In the researcher’s own words – “Life is possible only with this extremely important recycling system. We create proteins and destroy them, and again create and destroy, and that’s what makes life exist.”

I have to say I truly admire Dr. Ohsumi’s extraordinarily humble attitude as well as his unswerving focus on this seemingly lowly biological process, rather than gearing his research toward chasing the almighty dollar.

Personally, I find it interesting that Dr. Ohsumi mentioned that he started his research in what people viewed as garbage collection, when other esteemed colleagues didn’t have much interest and couldn’t see the value in the study of degradation of proteins.

I feel a kinship with the Doctor. My work was started in colon hydrotherapy – yes, helping people to literally remove waste from their colons to achieve much better health. In fact, my first product was formulated specifically to help people to relieve themselves of parasites, along with pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Through the years, thousands have found this formula a very effective way to eliminate garbage from their bodies while freeing more energy for repair and regeneration. Like Dr. Ohsumi, when I started out, people really didn’t want to talk much about their poop, didn’t think it was important. Many still don’t.

Just a few years ago my assistant attended a scientific pediatric medical conference. A well know medical doctor delivered a presentation to M.D.s on managing parasitic infections. Only pharmacological options were offered. My assistant asked why there was no information shared about the herbal preparations that had been used not only by me but also by countless populations around the globe for eons. He answered that there hadn’t been any research done to prove the efficacy of such formulations.

How sad. Relief for so many people everywhere is restricted by the money-grubbing choices of controlling financial entities. Much research in the past has been targeted to prove what will bring the most money to the funding source. There’s not a lot of cash in researching black walnut hulls or wormwood unless some pharmaceutical company discovers how to butcher the original DNA to create a new substance they can then patent and monetize.

My prayers are that the studies of Dr. Ohsumi and many others like him are heralding a new era of research.  I believe it’s time we look into the true working of our bodies on a much deeper level. Let’s not be put off by “waste products” (as Dr. Ohsumi has shown are so important) or for that matter, “poop”! What may at first seem like garbage can provide us with critical information about essential processes that can support ongoing health and vitality for ourselves – and for our planet.

Texts – New Teenage Health Food?

Filed in Diet, Fermentation, General, Leaky Gut, Skin, Teens, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/19/2016


Texts are like health food for teens - brendawatson.com

Are your kids back to school yet? If not, hang in there, the time is fast approaching! And perhaps this year, you can consider sending healthy texts to make a difference in what your teen chooses to eat! Now that’s a novel idea~

My beloved granddaughter has been staying with me this summer and she’s off to college on Monday. Add to that her birthday was last Wednesday, so to celebrate Stan and I took her on a trip to the Florida Keys. To increase the fun we invited some close friends of ours that have teenage daughters too. It was a non-stop texting and photo shoot (whatever did one do before the selfie?), tons of laughs and of course a food fest!

I had to grin when I checked out the Wall Street Journal and saw this article – “Appeal to Teens Vanity to Get Them to Eat Better”. I just lived and breathed that title!

The study published online in the British Journal of Health Psychology stated that “teenagers are more likely to eat healthier foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, if they are reminded it will improve their emotional well-being, attitude and appearance”.

I’ll bet you’re not surprised that the daily reminders were delivered via text. The abstract of the actual study can be found here. In a nutshell, texting proved to be a helpful tool in stimulating teenagers, ages 14 to 19, to increase their positive nutrient consumption.

While teens who received texts about increased health benefits and decreased cancer risk did consume more fruits and veggies than a control group that didn’t receive texts, the group that showed the most improvement in their eating habits received texts that focused on optimistic attitudes and a more attractive appearance.

That makes perfect sense to me. When I was that age, prevention and disease processes were the furthest things from my mind. After all, when you’re a teenager, it’s very clear you’ll live forever, won’t you? That’s the attitude that makes jumping off bridges and rock climbing just another day in the life! How I looked and how happy I was were of paramount importance!

As I consider these findings, I realize once again that the most important reminders any teenager can receive are those he or she experiences right at home. My granddaughter will come into the kitchen when something different is being prepared, and although her adorable nose may turn up a bit, her curiosity wins out time and again. You see, for years I’ve offered whole food, sometimes unusual substitutes for processed junk food on my table. As a grandmother, my influence goes only so far, but I believe that the seeds of health awareness have been firmly planted.

I find it a bit unsettling that she is recently recognizing more and more food sensitivities. Those allergic reactions point to Leaky Gut Syndrome and damage already done to the intestinal wall. Sadly, gut dysfunctions are happening at earlier ages than ever before, even in those considered “healthy teens”. (Tip for Mom – fortify your teen’s belly with a good probiotic daily!)

My granddaughter’s path is her own, and never before was her independence asserted more than during this vacation. She’s growing up and I look forward to watching her become a fine young woman. She knows I’m always here for her.

I’m thinking perhaps I should consider creating a series of texts that will let her know that live greens and fermented foods will make her skin glow (and that’s the total truth)!

Or maybe I will sneak a copy of Skinny Gut Diet into her suitcase. She just might get bored and read it one day – especially if I tell her she will definitely be even more beautiful if she does!

Soul Food

Filed in Diet, Gardening, General, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/01/2016


Here on our farm at Vital Planet black-eyed peas abound – perfect makings for my family soul food recipes! We are grateful that they are a flourishing part of our experimental summer crop.

Hot Florida summers aren’t terribly kind to many of our crops, however. Worms found our delicious cucumbers extremely delicious as well, so we’ve removed their tired limbs to the composter. Too hot and too late in the season had our tomatillos without fruit. Yes, in the composter too.

However our black-eyed peas, some lima beans and bush beans are continuing to produce, along with dandelion, baby lettuces, some parsley and arugula, all grown through hydroponic farming. The okra plants, fancy with their gorgeous flowers, are bursting forth mightily. You can almost stand and watch those babies grow! And we’ve even decided to plant some more mature peppers to see what might materialize.

So I decided that it was time for an ole fashioned Southern soul food treat for us all! I shucked black-eyed peas until I was cross-eyed and decided to make my Mama’s Famous Black-Eyed Peas recipe along with Daddy’s Favorite Cake of Cornbread! There wasn’t an evening in my house growing up where that delicious cake wasn’t on the table – not if Mama wanted Daddy to be happy.

I know that black-eyed peas tend to be a New Year’s treat, but since they’re still in growing season, I just had to share these time-tested, beloved Southern recipes with you right here. Please let me know how you like them and remember, on our Skinny Gut Diet, this is a special treat, not regular fare!

soul food peas

My Mama’s Famous Black-eyed Peas

  • Approximately 1/2 – 3 cups dried or fresh shelled black-eyed peas
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat
  • 4 strips of crisp bacon – crumbled/ham hock or a piece of salt pork
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

Sautee chopped onions and garlic in bacon fat.

Add in peas and enough water to just cover the mixture.

Crumble in bacon (or add ham).

Add pepper.

Bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes.

Turn down to simmer for about 40 minutes or until peas are soft.

Add more water if necessary – makes a great gravy!

My Daddy’s Favorite Cake of Cornbread

  • 2 cups – Self rising cornmeal (gluten free/no flour).
  • Follow directions on bag to make batter.
  • I substitute 2 cups of buttermilk for the egg that’s suggested on the package.
  • Few tablespoons of oil.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put about 1 tablespoon oil in an iron skillet and spread oil around the skillet, including up onto the sides. I used an oil that was a coconut and canola combo.

Pour the batter in the skillet and place on top of stove at low heat. Watch the batter closely!

When bubbles begin to form in the batter, take cornbread cake off stove and put in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Following this process will create cornbread that is crisp on the bottom as well as the top.

Once done, you’ll want to remove the entire cornbread from the skillet to cool. By the way, butter is delicious on top when warm!

soul food cornbread

Now it’s time to enjoy, and enjoy, and enjoy!

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone has a pleasant and relaxing long weekend!

Skinny Gut Your Gumbo

Filed in Diet, General, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/17/2016


Amazing Shrimp Gumbo - brendawatson.com

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, our family always starts to plan for picnics and get-togethers. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a simple and delicious gumbo that is always a crowd pleaser! It’s easy to double or triple this recipe and make a delicious offering for a large group!

Seafood Gumbo

(this recipe can be found in my recent book – Heart of Perfect Health)

Only 1.8 teaspoons of sugar per serving!

Prep – 60 minutes (well worth your time!)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning mix or favorite Creole spice blend
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 – 14.5 ounce can low-sodium chopped tomatoes or similar amount raw/chopped
  • 1 pound medium shrimp (30 count) peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup fresh crabmeat
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 cup sliced fresh or frozen okra (optional, but delicious – and in season!)

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, peppers, garlic, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaves. Sautee for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions and peppers are softened.

Add the stock and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the shrimp, crabmeat, hot sauce, and okra. Return the mixture to a boil, cover, and remove from the heat; let stand for 10 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.

Of course, any other seafood you have in your household would be a delicious addition too. More green veggies also only add more nutrients to the fun!

Enjoy!

Food Journal Into Summer Clothes

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Exercise, General, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/20/2016


Food Journal for Weight Loss - brendawatson.com

As the days get longer (and in this area of the country, much hotter) thoughts turn to swimming prospects, and inevitably to bathing suits. While it’s easy to ignore weight loss goals while bundled in coats and boots, once again at this time of year, they tend to move up in priority.
So let’s dust off an excellent tool that will help jumpstart your quest to attain your perfect weight for your frame – and this year’s bathing suit. Begin a new food journal!

Please don’t groan. The whole experience can now be much less labor intensive than years ago. In the past you could only write in your daily entries manually and then you had to research the nutrient content in a separate way. I’m so grateful to our original Renew HOPE Foundation clients who tracked their foods carefully during the years we offered those programs. The data we gathered multiplied in value later as we gathered research for Skinny Gut Diet.

Fortunately, with the wonderful apps available to anyone with a computer or cell phone, the information gathered by the participants in our Skinny Gut Diet project was considerably less tedious. Today digital options for recording your daily eats abound, even including photo journaling.

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion of food journaling recently in the Wall Street Journal. While very useful for identifying food allergies and triggers for gut symptoms, far and away food journals are most commonly used for weight loss.

The article points out a number of interesting studies that validate food journaling as a great tool in support of your weight loss goals.

Over the years I have observed the people most successful with their food journal are consistent and accurate, carefully logging their foods until the habit is established. Then the accountability factor kicks in. As weeks go by, “aha” moments are joyfully attained and real and lasting change takes place.

So why do a large number of people find the food journal process, whether computerized or handwritten, nothing but a tiresome chore? Truth is, it takes more than a just few days to achieve those “aha!” realizations, and far too often the commitment to journaling ends in the length of time it takes fish to spoil in the refrigerator!

I appreciate the study info provided by My Fitness Pal stating that people who have friends on the app and connect regularly seem to lose twice as much weight as those who don’t connect with friends. Personally I think that interpersonal support is critical for almost everything in life. Another Power Tool – Sharing with Others!

By the way, My Fitness Pal was the app we were able to edit and use in Skinny Gut Diet and we continue to appreciate it in our community today. Because Skinny Gut Diet focuses on counting nutrients rather than calories, it was fortunate that the program allowed changes to be made regarding nutrients tracked.

I also really liked the suggestion in the article to write out what you plan to eat and record it in your food journal before eating it. It seems the process can be a deterrent to poor choices. Planning ahead has always been the cornerstone of success – for me at least. Great idea!

Some people enjoy merging food journaling with exercise tracking. It seems to help them to maintain interest. Others are best engaged when they can comment on emotional and physical experiences and relate them back to food choices.

In Skinny Gut Diet we used food journaling as one of our Power Tools. Have you had success with journaling in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Produce Easy Produce Anywhere

Filed in Gardening, General, Organic vegetables | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/08/2016


Produce kale! - brendawatson.com

Today is a day for inspiration! I’m happy to share some really uplifting and heart-opening information with you about great things happening in the world of gardening and fresh produce.

In the resort town of Jackson, Wyoming two visionary women are creating not only a wonderful opportunity for the town but also a very large amount of organic produce. Veggies are a personal favorite of mine, as you know!

This exciting project began eight years ago when Penny McBride and Nona Yehia met at a party. Over time, the business Vertical Harvest was co-created.

Vertical Harvest uses hydroponic farming methods to grow various veggies in the harsh Wyoming winters, and all year round. The greenhouse itself is a three-story structure that has been constructed on a 4,500 square-foot downtown lot. Central to this greenhouse’s ability to produce a bounty of veggies is their use of the relatively new practice called vertical farming.

Construction presented some unforeseen issues, as always seems to happen when new designs are introduced. Overall, after much discussion with the town council and governmental agencies, it’s so wonderful to know that by early May greens will be growing and soon thereafter, the bountiful harvest will be sold to local grocery stores, restaurants and also in a retail shop. The perfect additional piece to this story is that the customized employment model chosen allows for 15 people with disabilities to work and be truly productive. What a worthwhile endeavor!

Of course, hydroponic growing is nothing new to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It’s astounding to tour the Land Pavilion there and see firsthand the gardens they’ve created and the food they constantly produce. Besides providing vegetables for the restaurants on site, there is ongoing research into vegetable species and growing practices and also wonderful opportunities available for those passionate about growing to intern in this fascinating place.

I clearly understand the value and joy of hydroponic gardening. I’ve been involved with two different systems myself for a number of years now.

Our biggest producer is this stackable vertical system, which uses coconut coir (instead of dirt) to stabilize the root system. The nutrient solution is provided to the plants a few times daily through a timer system. Next weekend we’re moving it to Vital Planet Company Headquarters so everyone here can enjoy the grow experience, and the yummy veggies. We’ll just walk outside and pick our salad for lunch!

We also have a Tower Garden. It’s a different type of system that allows the roots of the various plants to hang in midair. The roots are misted regularly throughout the day and night. This particular system was invented by a gentleman who had previously managed the hydroponic gardens at Disney. The plants are so vibrant and the root system so interesting that we’ve even used them as centerpieces at big events in the past.

Hydroponic growing insures that the plants are getting the nutrition they need to provide optimal vibrancy, and secondarily, the best nutrition for us. The phrase “Beyond Organic” has been used. That’s really a blessing for us, considering the soil here in Florida is mostly sand. And I must say, our hydroponic veggies are extremely delicious and beautiful!

Recently I came across a different type of tower system, which I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll try too. To me, the most appealing aspect of this grow system is sustainability. It seems to require little maintenance and makes use of worms and your kitchen scraps to create compost and self-fertilize. And no electricity is required!

So if you find any of this information interesting, I encourage you to go for it! It’s a truly wonderful experience for the family to walk outside and gather dinner from your own patio or backyard – even right in the city!