Growing Up: Vertical Gardening Project Presents Sustainable Food Options

Senior Makkie Conching '17 hopes she will inspire people to think differently about the world and global environment through the work she performed on her senior capstone project. In an attempt to encourage others to both think and live sustainably, Conching designed and created her own vertical garden.

As a freshman in high school, Conching knew she wanted to attend a college or university in Oregon. It was only when Conching learned about the environmental studies program at Pacific University that she knew her decision had been made.

“I heard about the environmental studies program here and it was something that I had my heart set on since I was young child in elementary school,” Conching said. “I knew I wanted to make a change, no matter how big or small.”

To begin developing a project she could work on for her senior capstone, Conching looked at problems she saw both in Forest Grove and at her home in Oahu, Hawai'i.

Conching noticed how limited the space to garden was in Hawai'i and began developing a design for her very own vertical garden, which would allow those with green thumbs to garden in small spaces and be able to produce food to sustain themselves and their families.

“About 85 percent of our food in Hawai'i is imported,” Conching said. “Even though it’s a small change, I wanted to start with my family and help them produce our own food so we can decrease the number of imported goods and so we could eat fresh and local food straight from our home.”

Conching began creating her vertical garden design on a computer-based application called SketchUp, which allowed her to plan out every step of her design process and visually anticipate the final look without having to spend copious amounts of money or waste any valuable material.

“For my design, I came up with the ‘A Frame’ design, and it's basically rotating using a pulley system and motor,” Conching said. “I wanted it to be really accessible to all growers and easy to build and something that can adapt to all growers needs.”

Conching’s design for her vertical garden also allows growers to utilize LED lights so that they can grow produce inside their own homes. A basin-based watering system also ensures that the vertical garden is always well hydrated.

Conching’s uncle already hopes to put the design to work in his own home in the coming months.

“I want people to think my design is cool,” Conching said. “And something they would be interested in participating in.”

The sustainable design major at Pacific University is an interdisciplinary program within the Environmental Studies Department that emphasizes designing solutions to environmental problems. Students combine the fundamentals of ecology and permaculture with the social sciences and humanities as they seek global solutions to complex challenges.

Apr. 24, 2017