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Q & A with Little Rock's Ruby Allen

Ruby Allen, the Associate Finance and Administrative Director at the Little Rock Job Corps Center, recently attended the Progressive Gardening Trade Association Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Below is an informal interview about her experience.

Q: What were a few things you learned at the conference?

A: I enjoyed learning about hydroponics, which is the use of water and plant nutrients to grow a plant, rather than traditional soil gardening. The water/reservoir planting system allows for gardening in small spaces, such as rooftops, and in urban areas with limited land or poor soil. Hydroponic gardening is also known to yield higher nutrient content and larger produce. I also learned about composting, and vermicomposting, which is the use of worms, or worm casting, which stimulates plant growth.

Q: What new ideas did you hear about that you would like to implement on center?

A: Students and staff at the Little Rock Job Corps Center have expressed an interest in gardening, and the tactics I learned at this conference, including hydroponics and composting, will help the students build and maintain a center garden in the future. Culinary staff and students can benefit from learning how to grow vegetables and herbs organically, as taught at the conference. I would love to invite someone with experience in hydroponic systems and organic gardening to speak to our staff and students.

Q: What speaker was particularly interesting, and what did he or she speak about?

A: Tom Szaky of TerraCycle, Inc., discussed innovative and fun ways to recycle. His company has partnered with others to "up-cycle" products by turning household items into new products. Examples include using juice boxes as book bags and Oreo cookie bags as kites. Tom's company also partners with UPS to transport materials for recycling to collection sites. This addresses one of the most challenging aspects of recycling, which is moving the materials to a collection center.