Vermont Hydroponic Venture Emerges Out of Barroom Conversation, a Tropical Storm, and a Desire to Grow Year-roundOctober 25, 2016 | Pamela Hunt
Like many great plans, Vermont’s Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics operation began as a barroom conversation among friends. In the early 1990s farmer David Hartshorn and his now business partners, brothers John and Ted Farr, sat around discussing their dream of building a greenhouse to enable them to grow produce year-round. At the time, though, the energy costs required to bring the project online were so prohibitive that they tabled the idea.
Approximately twenty years later, though, the timing was right. In 2013, with a loan procured from the Vermont Economic Development Authority, Hartshorn and the Farrs launched Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics (GMHH) in Waitsfield, Vermont.
When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.
“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.”
Rod Palmer of Owls Hollow Farm in Gadsen, Alabama, wants people to think a little more about what they’re eating.
If they continue to eat the same processed foods that have led to an epidemic of diabetes and obesity, then they shouldn’t be surprised if their health isn’t improving.
If they continue to buy expensive produce grown outside the U.S. at the supermarket, then they won’t be able to stretch their dollars that much.
Owls Hollow gives both residents and employees at local companies in nearby Birmingham a way to eat healthier while saving money.
Palmer comes from a background in home building, and he never focused on farming as a career. When growing up, everyone around him, including his family, lived on a small farm. It never seemed like something unique.
For Paul Mock, founder of Mock’s Greenhouse and Farm in Berkeley Springs, WV, farming is more than a career; it’s a way of life.
“My family’s been farming for over a hundred years,” says Paul. “I’ve technically been in the business since I was five years old.”
However, the hydroponic greenhouses that Paul manages now are in a whole different field than the Christmas tree farm he grew up on. After working on the family farm for most of his adult life, Paul moved off the farm in 2003 to start his own hydroponics greenhouse system. His reasons for this dramatic change were straightforward.
Jesse Adkins was working a landscape design and installation job in Pelzer, South Carolina when he saw a sign by the side of the road that read, “Hydroponic Tomatoes.” His curiosity piqued, Adkins sought out the grower, Paul Lee. Lee entertained questions about his operation and hydroponic growing that provided Adkins, a 35 year landscape design and nursery industry veteran, with the impetus to take on a new career challenge.
“It seemed to be a profitable way to grow and offered a way to use marginal land to grow a large amount of clean, healthy produce on a small footprint,” Adkins says.
Under Lee’s tutelage and after taking a short course in hydroponic growing from Mississippi State University, his confidence grew. When Lee retired, Adkins took the plunge and bought his greenhouse and growing equipment. He also procured a USDA loan to buy a second, larger greenhouse to accompany the one built by Lee, and by 2006 his fledgling hydroponic venture Hurricane Creek Farms was up and running.
Presenting subjects ranging from window farming to food security and lighting systems, the Indoor Agriculture Conference features two full days of education on controlled environment technologies, aero/hydro/aquaponic best practices and business models, automated nutrient systems, future trends, and financing options …
One thing most people can agree on: pale supermarket tomatoes do not taste like the tomatoes grown in the backyard in summer. That’s why Backyard Farms strives to produce fruit so delicious that it tastes like it was just plucked from the backyard garden—even during a long Maine winter.
According to Tim Cunnis, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing at Backyard Farms, the company formed in 2006 to provide a more local alternative to mediocre tomatoes trucked in from thousands of miles away.
NY Sun Works, a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools, partnered with a small group of parents at PS 333, The Manhattan School for Children, to found The Greenhouse Project Initiative in 2008.
“Through our Greenhouse Project Initiative, we use hydroponic farming technology to educate and teachers about the science of sustainability,” says Manuela Zamora, NY Sun Works director and director of education programs.
The Greenhouse Project was founded because parents and educators within New York City’s K-8 public school system were concerned about what they perceived to be shortcomings in the systems’ environmental science program.