When the mushroom company he was growing for closed down its operation, Allyn Brown, who has been farming for nearly 40 years, wanted to find something similar to mushrooms that would provide him with year-round cash flow.
That’s when Brown decided to grow hydroponic lettuce. But he knew he had to learn how to run a hydroponic operation from an expert to become successful. So, he spent some time at Cornell learning from Lou Albright, a well-known hydroponic guru.
“I did a short course in hydroponics and started to convert my facility over to lettuce,” Brown says. “That got successful and within one year, it doubled in size.” He christened the operation, Maple Lanes Farms 2.
To meet demand, Brown immediately started looking for another greenhouse space.
The land used for Snuck Farm has been in Page Westover’s family for more than 100 years; her family helped to settle the idyllic town of Pleasant Grove, Utah, where it is located. Westover says the idea to use the remaining land (much of it has been sold or parceled off over the decades) for sustainable farming came out of a desire to preserve a piece of history while serving their community.
“My dad grew up on this property. We decided that we would revitalize it and preserve a piece of our family history,” says Westover. “We wanted to preserve the pasture, and we wanted to maintain the animals that have been there.”
The farm, which has been in operation for about one year, offers leafy green vegetables grown using hydroponics. Their greenhouse is currently growing different kinds of kale, lettuce, and other salad greens, in addition to chard, basil, and many other herbs.
Westover says the farm is also in the process of developing an outdoor farmyard where they will grow fruits and other vegetables to round out their selection.
Traditionally, farmers have grown plants in nutrient-rich soil. Now an increasing number of growers rely on hydroponics, which uses a variety of soil-less media in a controlled environment.
But which is better—soil or soil-free?
Seedstock ventured to find an answer to this question by talking to a farmer, a hydroponics expert, a horticulturist and a chef. They each have different opinions, but one thing is clear: while soil-less growing techniques can offer incredible benefits, we still need dirt.
Here’s what they had to say.
Food banks need fresh produce year-round, but this can prove difficult for those located in harsh winter climes. To address this problem, Purdue Polytechnic students are working on a solution that will provide produce all year long to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana.
The solution they came up with is hydroponic growing. Not only would this increase efficiency and productivity of Second Harvest Food Bank’s eight-county operation, but would also enable people who benefit from the food bank to enjoy fresh produce during every month of the year.
Mike Lott is not your run of the mill farmer. Not long ago, before making the decision to embark on a career in farming and launch his aquaponic and urban agriculture venture, Urban Food Works in Murrieta, CA, Lott was a professional golfer.
He grew up not on a farm, but in a typical southern California home. As a kid, he didn’t awake early in the morning to milk and feed cows, harvest crops, or turn the soil. Instead, he honed his golf game in anticipation of one day playing professionally. After high school Lott headed to the College of the Desert in Palm Desert not only because of its well-known golf program, but also to study Environmental Science. It was there that the seeds of Lott’s interest in and current passion for urban farming and the environment were sown.