Tend to Your Garden and It Will Tend to You

The spirit of the gardener extends beyond growing plants; it represents the ability to thoughtfully nurture and participate in the world around you.
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Tend to your garden, and in turn, it will tend to you.

The taste of the tomatoes from my mother's garden burns bright in my memory, and in each tomato I enjoy today. In Detroit, the start of our growing season was marked by a visit to Eastern Market. We selected plants and conferred with the farmers on how best to grow them. From there our relationship with our garden began. Throughout the summer, family and friends joined in their own way, helping plant the seedlings and later enjoying my mother's legendary gazpacho. We grew with those tomatoes, and we became gardeners.

Despite a resurgence of urban community gardens and rooftop vegetable patches, the ability to grow the vegetables and fruits you eat still seems like a foreign idea to most city-dwellers today. Instead, we too often settle for store-bought produce that is unripe, un-flavorful and un-enjoyable because it has travelled great distances to be there. Beyond the pleasure of eating a fresh-picked, perfectly ripe tomato, what's lost is the delight in growing your own food and the opportunity it offers to connect with nature in a simple but profound way. Gardening is important because it fosters an active ecology between people, plants and all of the processes essential to the two, such as water and energy. The spirit of the gardener extends beyond growing plants; it represents the ability to thoughtfully nurture and participate in the world around you.

I continue to tend to my garden through the company that I cofounded in 2013, SproutsIO Inc. At SproutsIO, we are developing smart microgardens, so anyone can have an indoor, year-round, soil-free, networked garden. This is what we do, and how we do it matters.

A key aspect of SproutsIO's company mission is to manufacture and create skilled jobs in the United States focused on developing sustainable technologies and methods. SproutsIO is manufactured in Detroit, using a deep rooted and robust infrastructure established in large part by the automotive industry. This is a highly skilled network of industries, with state of the art practices and facilities that have been building for generations. We repurpose this local expertise, our extended family of seasoned and talented engineers, toolmakers and tradespeople, towards a new future of responsible enterprise.

Together, with a 25-year-old, family run electrical engineering and printed circuit board company, we are bringing SproutsIO to life, prototyping and manufacturing electronics with the experience of making millions of consumer products. Our design for manufacturing efforts have been expertly guided by talented mechanical engineers at an 80-year-old firm, who have engineered everything from medical devices to transportation systems. We are working with soft toolmakers who have taught us the art of delivering high quality prototypes that look and feel like the final product; expertise that can only be learned, not input into a build program. As we move towards production, we have been working with a family run business that realizes semi-automated and automated tools for the medical, aeronautical and automotive industries.

These are relationships that we nurture. We are proactively investing in Detroit, in its skills and its people, and have been met with nothing less than a commitment to excellence. This sentiment is at the core of what we do. SproutsIO empowers us to participate in the process of growing our own Personal Produce. We have learned that involvement through incremental changes are most disruptive when scaled. A SproutsIO microgarden may appear small at first glance, but when millions of us grow together, we change our dependence on industrial agriculture, repositioning ourselves from the end of the supply chain to the center of the food cycle.

As a gardener, I have come to know no boundaries for what can be grown, be it tomatoes or a business. Through a commitment to engaging the communities in which we take part, we are nurturing the future, together, as gardeners.

Jennifer Broutin Farah is the Cofounder & CEO of SproutsIO, leading the development of new technologies that redefine our interaction with food. She earned an M.S. in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab, an M.S. Advanced Architecture Design from Columbia University, and a BArch from the University of Miami. Jennifer has taught at Columbia University, Pratt Institute, and at the New York City College of Technology. She was selected as an Innovation Fellow by Wired Magazine in 2014, a Tech Hero by Glamour Magazine in 2014, and was recently announced as a finalist for the 2015 Cartier Women's Initiative Awards.

On October 15, 2015, six Laureates, one for each region, will be awarded $20,000 in funding, a full year of coaching, a lifetime access to the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards community and unique networking and visibility opportunities. To learn more visit http://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com.

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