When Soil Is Contaminated, Build Above It

How Alegría Farm's SoxxBoxx is reimagining container gardening.

There was a time not long ago when the grocery store had a small organic produce section, if they had one at all.

Today we’re fortunate to have access to organic produce in abundance, from our local farmers market to bodega, but an organic sticker doesn’t mean our organic salads are loaded with nutrients like they used to be.

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It’s been estimated that our food is 80 percent less nutrient dense than it was just 30 years ago, largely owing to soil depletion. Organic certification implies our produce was grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, ionizing radiation, and GMOs– but if our intention is to receive nutrients from our food, then we need to start asking different questions, namely– what is the condition of the soil? If the soil is starved of nutrients, so is the food that’s grown in it.

A New Model for Growing

Our soil is in a state of crisis with an estimated 60 years of use remaining if we don’t change our farming methods. If we’re not going to remediate the soil that’s dying beneath us– a challenge and commitment that most farmers don’t have the time or money to make– we need to grow directly above it, Erik Cutter of Alegría Farms explains.

Cutter is an urban farmer who teaches regenerative agriculture. He has created the Alegría Soxxboxx Growing System using Filtrexx’s patented GardenSoxx mesh, his own blend of soil that’s blended by Kellogg Garden (the only company that makes 100 percent organic soil to date), and a hydroponic flood and drain tray conveniently positioned at hip level to prevent hungry varmints from snacking.

This entourage allows the plant to not lose any water or nutrients, while maintaining an abundance of oxygen.

“When we put our living soil filled socks in a tray, we create micro-environments between the socks and the sides of the tray that promote plant growth through greater access to oxygen,” says Cutter.

“The best qualities of hydroponic, aeroponic, and organic farming are realized in one system. These micro-environments resist dehydration, while remaining damp and full of oxygen to support healthy root systems,” he adds.

This system provides 30-40 percent more oxygen to the root system.

Modularity is Key

The standard size for the SoxxBoxx growing system is 4×8′, a modular and accessible size appealing to farmers and also home growers. This is how we get what Cutter refers to as ‘above organic regenerative growing systems’ into homes: by simplifying the concept and making it financially accessible and scalable for farmers.

After years of developing food on farms, Cutter is now focusing on building food growing systems that are both Earth-friendly and productive. One such system yields 6-8 crops per year; uses 50 percent fewer fertilizers, zero toxic pesticides, and 95 percent less water; and it increases atmospheric carbon sequestration.

Starting with Southern California, Alegría will manufacture and distribute from their facility in Orange. Their latest project site includes Crestvilla in Laguna Niguel, a senior living community in California where ten 4×8′ systems will soon be installed– on the roof.

The goal is to provide healthy food on site while teaching seniors about planting, harvesting, and delivering superior produce to their chef, so that they can consume the nutrient-rich food they grow them selves.

“We’re looking at ways to make our seniors more active and our system provides that,” Cutter explains. “Offering regenerative food production systems in senior living communities creates more engagement and results in a healthy and stimulating community experience.”

Cutter has also been involved in high CBD cannabis research for over 20 years and believes that high CBD cannabis has tremendous potential to reduce, alleviate, and even eliminate disease. He’s developed a smaller system, the CannaSoxxBoxx that’s outfitted for two cannabis plants.

Either way, whether it be tomatoes or cannabis, Cutter is growing plants that are magnificent in appearance and taste because he’s determined to grow the highest quality plant possible. Plus, his growing system makes this process accessible for novice to expert gardeners alike.

The Need To Grow

Cutter can turn a steak-loving salad hater into a SoxxBoxx fanatic, and this sort of buzz drew producers Rob Herring and Ryan Wirick to his growing system. He then became part of a film called “The Need To Grow,” narrated by Rosario Dawson, which tackles the problem of how we can feed the world without destroying the earth. The film had its World Premiere on February 25th at the Sedona International Film Festival in Arizona.

In the film, Cutter is joined by equally magnetic and moving minds that offer solutions of their own when asked about the impending food crisis. All that’s left is each and every one of us deciding whether we care enough about our bodies and the planet to implement the ideas.

Learn more about Alegria’s SoxxBoxx growing system by visiting the company’s website.

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