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Ashley Fromm, the youngest member of a four-person partnership at Root Pouch in Hillsboro, Oregon, didn’t set out to change the world when she graduated from college in 2008, but that’s exactly what she and her partners are doing. Ashley, along with her godfather, his wife and her sister, are equal stakeholders in a company that manufactures fabric growing pots made of recycled plastic bottles. Their company is so in sync with the times that the words “landfill” and “gardening” no longer seem incompatible.
Root Pouch got its name when the founders decided to use the kangaroo as a metaphor for their product because both of them ‘protect their young’, says Ashley. This led to the tagline “Better for the plant, better for the planet.”
Early on they formed a partnership with the Ye family in China, combining the horticulture expertise of the Root Pouch team with the Chinese expertise in recycling and geotextile technology. Ashley calls them their ‘mirror family’ and the close bond they formed continues to flourish.
The arguments for fabric pots versus plastic pots, which are still the standard in most places, are dizzying. At the end of my conversation with Ashley I was a convert to the “Better for the planet” brand promise.
Here are some of the facts:
- Root Pouch last year alone removed 1,200 metric tons of plastic water bottles from circulation that were otherwise destined for landfills.
- Each 5 gallon pouch they produce prevents 2-3 bottles from going to landfills. In contrast plastic pots, even if recycled, will use some petroleum-based fossil fuels.
- Root Pouch pots can be folded and ‘baled’ so that they take up about 1/6 the amount of space in shipping and transportation that plastic pots do, saving millions of gallons of petrol.
We all know what it’s like to remove a plant from a plastic pot and find it is rootbound, its roots encircling the plant at the bottom of the container. With a fabric pot, by contrast, when the roots hit the fabric sides they shoot out dense fibrous roots which encourages plant health. This is the “Better for the plant” part of the equation.
Ashley grew up in Idaho, went to college in the Bay Area of California, and studied international business. For the past year she has been working from home, sharing office space with her husband of almost 2 years, and a new sheepadoodle puppy, who sits quietly on her lap through our phone interview. She loves that her real office in Hillsboro is dog-friendly and looks forward to bringing him in to meet the other dogs. She says she misses meeting with customers and traveling to trade shows, which was a big part of her business lifestyle before the pandemic. She’s a VP with responsibilities for sales and marketing.
Part of her job is educating customers and prospects about the benefits of a fabric pot but also about the special properties of her fabric pots. Root Pouch pots are the only ones made with recycled plastic bottles plus a blend of natural fibers, making the pots more breathable. The fabric has been engineered to offer thermal protection to roots too, making the plant warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
The exact properties of the Root Pouch blend are the ‘special sauce’ says Ashley, and treated as a family secret recipe. All of their fabrics are BPA and toxin free.
Ashley has her own vegetable garden at home, all planted in Root Pouch fabric pots. She grows tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, as well as herbs such as rosemary, cilantro and basil. Root Pouch makes containers that are 100, 200 and 300 gallons in size for raised beds. Like all the others, at the end of the season you dump out the soil, wash the fabric and fold it up for storing until next season.
Womanswork carries 3 products from Root Pouch, the one gallon pot, the 5 gallon pot with handles, and the Thin Black Propagation Bags, which are sold with our “Seed Starting Kits”. These items are called degradable, not biodegradable. They are not meant to be planted in the ground, but used like a typical pot would be, above ground. Wash and fold them for storing at the end of the season and you will get several seasons out of them.
For more information about Root Pouch visit their website at https://rootpouch.com/
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