Success has come fast for Beverly and Dave McConnell of Utterback Farms in Middletown, Missouri. Almost overnight, the couple has established an aquaponic farm and are just months away from making a profit.
The McConnells inherited the farm, which was established at the turn of the last century, from Beverly McConnell’s parents. It was Beverly’s avid gardening hobby, inherited from her Depression-era grandmother, which led the couple to enter the world of commercial growing in their retirement.
Heads of lettuce may not seem life changing, but when you grow 3 million of them each year, the result can reinvigorate an entire area.
Such is the idea behind Green City Growers Cooperative’s greenhouse in Cleveland. At three-and-a-quarter acres, the greenhouse spans the equivalent of three football fields.
“It’s one of the largest local food initiatives in the United States,” said Mary Donnell, Green City Growers’ chief executive officer. It also ranks as the nation’s largest food production greenhouse in a core urban area.
Darin and Deb Kelly were poised for high-paying traditional careers. She was a lawyer and he was completing coursework for a master’s degree — but then they abandoned the slavish pursuit of dollars for a life that brought happiness.
In 2006, the couple started selling produce from Good Life Farms, in Martinsville, Ind. Today, the farm grows using hydroponics, but the Kellys began with soil farming and they still grow a small number of crops using traditional field methods.
Throughout his life, Kelly has always grown vegetables. He developed a reputation for turning lawns into fields. “Basically, I didn’t believe in lawn,” he said.
Cattle farming is just about as far apart from aquaponics as you can get, but for one family in Devine, TX, the switch from one to the other was the logical choice.
“We wanted to utilize our small acreage for something that my husband and I could both work on. We wanted a business that we could capitalize on without having to go too far from our home, and we wanted to make it sustainable.”
Peggy and Richard Scott had been classic Texas cattle ranchers for over a decade, but more frequent droughts and a desire for change pushed them in a new direction.
Dave and Cathy Hume are the green thumbs behind Tampa’s Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm.
Like the name suggests, the goods produced on this farm are grown hydroponically and, as an added bonus, organically.
This locally sustainable farm is free from toxic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, hormones, or antibiotics. Owners David and Cathy Hume recognize the importance of growing fresh, local produce and champion the idea of sustainability on their hydroponic farm.
Greens & Gills, LLC Founder David Ellis comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Both his father and grandfather were independent business owners and he knew he would eventually follow in their footsteps— once the right idea presented itself of course. In Ellis’ case, the right idea came in the form of an urban, indoor agriculture operation using aquaponics.
According to Ellis, inspiration struck when he read about a Milwaukee company converting a vacant industrial space into an indoor, urban farm that would cultivate and sell local, sustainably grown fish and vegetables to the Milwaukee market. He visited the operation and the metaphorical seeds of his new business, Greens & Gills, were sown.
“We wanted something that was sustainable, but was a really good deal for the customer. We call it bioponic. That means we use all organic practices. We have a definite crop production and we are always sold out.” - Karen Archipley
While deployed in Iraq, Colin Archipley used his down time to work on the avocado farm he and his wife Karen bought back in 2006. “His whole mission was to save our farm,” remembers Karen. The farm was purchased between Colin’s second and third assignment in Iraq. When he wasn’t out battling the tension in Haditha, Colin was on the phone figuring out how to make his farm successful. The desire to make a positive lasting difference in the world was hampered by outrageous San Diego water rates. They had to find a way to reduce their $845 water bill and make their farm efficient and sustainable. A switch to bio hydroponic agriculture, a change of main product and the luck of partnering with some big names in the world of organic food and Archi’s Acres was well on its way.
The following is a candid conversation with young farmers, Matt Hyde and Sarah Wertz about their operation, Rabbit Run Farm in Skull Valley, Arizona.
What compelled you, especially as a young couple to get into sustainable farming?
We both enjoy working outdoors and eating good food. The farming lifestyle represents our values and beliefs. Also, we took the class Small Scale Agriculture at Prescott College held at Whipstone Farm in Paulden, Arizona. Following the class, we talked with the farmers Cory and Shanti and asked if we could work for them the following season. We really enjoyed it! The next season, Byrnie at Ridgeview Farms offered us land to use as kind of a trial for farming on our own The next season we were offered the farm manager position at Jenner Farm in Skull Valley and moved our farming operation there. We’ve been farming ever since.