Sustainable Living, Education and Aquaponics
Welcome to our little startup farm that focuses on sustainable living, education and urban farming with aquaponics!
We are very pleased to meet you. We are Jason, Liz, Isabelle, Lucky (the Yorkie), Esther (chicken #1), Oko (chicken #2), Monroe (chicken #3), many fish and plants that are on this journey to sustainable living.
After working the corporate life and reflecting on what's important, we have decided to go Green Acres 21st century style.
We’ve always grown a few vegetables in our backyard, particularly tomatoes. We’ve always loved eating tomatoes that we grew in our garden as compared to what we would find at the local grocery store. We also always had fruit trees in our backyards, whether they were already there or we purchased them because we thought they were pretty and the fruit was a bonus!
It was not a hobby but something we were lucky enough where we lived where everyone did it. Not farms but just gardening. Everyone does some gardening, whether you plant roses, jasmine, or whatever your beautiful favorite plants are, even our lawns.
I began to use fertilizers to promote healthy plants and fruit. One day I decided just for fun to look at the ingredients in the fertilizers in what I was growing. I looked at the ingredient labels on our food products, why not in what we use to grow our food? We found these strange technical names I never heard of or even knew how to pronounce!!! We realized, Holy Toledo!!! This stuff has “crap” in it. So, are we eating crap? This realization started to worry us.
We soon started asking questions. What is GMO, what is in the fertilizers, what is organic? What does all this mean? I’m just your average person. I go to work from 9 to 7 and come home and in the summer I go to the nursery buy some vegetable plants, plant them in my “garden” and most times it works great. What I didn’t realize is that all the fertilizers we had been putting in our plants and the weed killers we were using were poisonous to us. We were eating poison and absorbing them through our skin. WOW…what a wake-up call.
We began seriously researching food. Where is the food originating from? Why are some fast food restaurants able to sell their products so cheap and we tended to find many of our meals coming? Why do my tomatoes, peppers, etc. that I grow in my backyard taste so good when they don’t at supermarkets and restaurants (which I pay premium prices for)? The answers were complicated
We started looking online and found a new concept, AQUAPONICS. Well, we don’t know how to raise fish, but we’ve had aquariums before. We don’t know how to farm, but we’ve gardened in many different ways, so we decided to go for it.
Aquaponics is a recirculating water system wherein the water you put into your fish tank flows through to your vegetable beds over and over. You end up using 98% less water, grow crops considerably faster, no space issues, no petroleum based pesticides (except maybe beneficial insects or water), no weeding, no bending over, no forgetting to water and that’s just a touch of what you can do.
Did we believe it? We didn’t know, but we kept our minds open to a “fresh” new idea that bases its foundation on scientific knowledge. We built our first unit using tilapia and goldfish. We had to keep the water temperature warm, as tilapia is an African river fish that is used to crowding and grows fast. We threw seeds into our media beds with the hydroton and used plugs in our deep-water raft systems. Okay… we freaked out a little bit as within a few days; we had already germinated green beans, sweet peas, cilantro and cucumbers in our media bed. Our deep-water raft system had every green veggie, spinach, lettuce, Malabar spinach, and tomatoes. We didn’t know what would work and what wouldn’t. But three days? This growth was fantastic! And we never really watered. We tested our water every day for the first month, and it was super easy and took about 10 minutes.
A couple of months later, we were so convinced we decided to play with it. We built a second unit outdoors. We got some cold-water fish (we wanted to see what an unheated outdoor system could grow). Well, apparently everything. We tested by buying plants from the nursery and planting it and also planted seeds in the beds. The funny thing is, what we planted with seed far bypassed the plants we bought at stores (I just bought randomly from any stores). I then decided I’m going to see if I buy the best soil, compost, organic fertilizers, organic everything to see which grew faster and better.
Now we believe it. Not only do we feel it, but we've also become Aquaponic Evangelists! We even started the seeds in our deep-water raft system and then planted in soil just for fun. I ended up losing a lot of time due to weeding, spacing, and the slower growth than in our Aquaponic units. What a waste of water that way. Then, I thought, well, sometimes maybe we should instead of watering our plants from our water hose we began to use some water consciously from our fish tanks. With us using the “gunk” from our filters in our fish tanks and clean them in buckets and watered plants individually with the fish waste and water in the bucket. That did a neat trick!!! We brought back our hardpan clay soil to something that looked like really loamy brown chocolate cake if you grabbed it by the fist.
With our units growing food so fast, we don’t buy most of our greens from grocery stores any longer. We do buy from our local community supported agriculture (CSA) and local farmer’s markets for the things we didn’t grow, but it made our grocery bill drop considerably. It turns out we had always tried to be healthy as most of the food we were buying were in the vegetable isle and not processed foods, which we were able to afford because Jason and I were both working full-time jobs in the legal industry and were considered an above middle-class income family. What would happen if one of us for whatever reason, illness, the company downsized, company defunct and lost our jobs or even both?
And so it happened. It hit Liz first. She was at a non-sustainable company. It was a great start, but the truth is most start-up company’s fail. We limped along adjusting to our new lower income, but we always had fresh vegetables. We also had chickens, so we always had great eggs. We had great compost from the chickens, and we had months and months of letting them be our stage actors while they worked in our soil garden scratching up the hard pan and pooping in it while eating bugs. Liz sat outside every day all summer long enjoying the soothing sounds of the Aquaponic units while the water re-circulated and played with the chickens every day from sun-up to sundown. We all started to feel a lot better too. The vegetables from our units were leading us not to be as tired, hungry and strangely not feel so sad. We had fish we could eat, veggies to eat with the fish. We realized holy cow (not really, we don’t have any cows…not yet. We have only half an income, but we still feel secure! How the heck did that happen? Oh… we grew our food. Duh!! We cut our food cost down by so much! Liz made mayonnaise, canned extra veggies, began baking bread (super easy), growing micro-greens in the kitchen, and the soil in the backyard started to become productive!!!
How strange this concept was to all of us. We prioritized without even knowing we were doing it, what was paramount. We had each other. We could grow our food. We could improve our soil. We could give away the extra produce we had to friends, neighbors, and relatives.
WE ACHIEVED A SENSE OF FREEDOM
WE HAVE FOOD SECURITY
WE ARE SUSTAINABLE
We would like to show you how we did it and how easy it is. This aquaponics gardening is something anyone, and everyone can do. Aquaponic gardening and farming do not depend on what race you are, what religion, age, economic status, etc. Working with Aquaponics is just mimicking nature. Anyone can do it. We can help if you want to take this journey with us.