Urban farmer looking to end food deserts helps guide O.C. teens

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- One man's search for access to healthy food for urban communities turned into the answer for two Orange County teens looking for a purpose after high school.

The managing director of Alegria Fresh, Erik Cutter, said Lauren Battle and Jordan Sprick quickly became the hardest workers on his Alegria Fresh farm.

"It's a trend that I've been seeing that kids want to get into this, but there are no tools. There's no access to this. There's no jobs," Cutter said.

Battle said volunteering at this Irvine farm led her and her friend to wonder about the food on their plates.

"There's people doing this on a daily basis and I don't know where it's coming from," Battle said.

Today, Battle knew exactly where her leafy greens came from - a SoxxBoxx Gro system, jam packed with math, science and a nutrient-rich soil mix created by Cutter.

Cutter said because this organic microfarm is above ground, it can go anywhere, it's the solution to food deserts, creates living-wage jobs and leads to healthier communities.

"What the plant eats and is able to pull up in the way of nutrients ... is what we eat," Cutter said.

Both soon-to-be college freshmen are on their way to becoming environmental science majors.

"I started out just trying to eat some fruits and vegetable once a day and then it turned into now I'm vegan and it's a whole lifestyle for me," Battle said.

Shari Battle is Lauren's mom and senior vice president and marketing manager of Bank of America Orange County. Seeing how working on the SoxxBoxx changed her daughter's life, Shari Battle, brought Bank of America onboard to invest in the project.

"You need the public sector, the private sector and the community. That's the only way something like this is going to happen, is if the whole community surrounds the cause and the purpose and it's investing with a purpose," Shari Battle said.

"If we can just get kids out on the farm, they're gonna do it for themselves," Lauren Battle said.

Cutter said the next step was to get city, county and state leaders to invest in SoxxBoxx farms like this one in their own communities.
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