We have just said goodbye to 2011 and have welcomed 2012. This was actually one of those years when I wasn’t relieved to see the end of the year in hopes that the next one would be better. We had a phenomenal year in 2011 and are eager to begin this one. As I consider this new year, a saying a friend of mine told me years ago comes to mind. He said,
“Always look forward and not back. That’s why they make rear-view mirrors so small and windshields so big!”
Let’s peer through the Green Acre windshield and see what the road ahead has in store! The first stop on our trek is farm expansions and integration of growing methods, both aquaponic and traditional. Our goal is to grow as much diverse crops as is possible and do each in their most optimal setting. This looks like lettuce and leafy greens in DWC, herbs in NFT, peppers and eggplant in media beds, root crops and fruiting plants in verticals and/or raised bed agriculture and even fruiting trees! The nifty key to all of this is tying it all together and utilizing the natural fertilizer generated from the aquaponic system.
Next stop is on to a big transition in part of our cultivation. We found that marketing our fish product was a challenge and although chefs recognize the taste difference and quality in our product, the cost for our whole, unprocessed fish was an issue. Processing fish fillets would not only require additional labor but also a certified processing facility and when we considered the costs involved to process and the going rate for Tilapia, it was impossible to make the numbers work at our level of production. In order to scale up production to even consider competing with import prices, the trade off in cultivation costs and labor were not feasible unless it was a very large operation.
We then began to ponder if Tilapia then made the most sense for our operation. Despite the fact that we really like Tilapia and that they are nice fish and pretty tasty, they had one major flaw, no cold weather tolerance. I am sure you are thinking, but heck, Green Acre is in sunny warm Florida! Despite being in the “south”, here in North Central Florida, we often see nights in the teens from January through March and that translates into some seriously cold water temps and certainly cold enough to kill Tilapia. We began to consider then if our fish were solely part of our cost of growing our produce that we should then grow a fish that incurs the least amount of cost to cultivate and that translated into not having to provide heat. Discussions with friend and fellow aquapon David Rosenstein of EVO Farm helped solidify that decision. David, a trained permaculturist said, “ I think it (Tilapia cultivation) does not belong in any AP system in the contiguous US… especially if they are not being marketed. US. Catfish surpass tilpaia on many levels including durability, temp range, and have higher assimilation conversion efficiencies.” As we evaluated the costs to heat either our water or airspace while also recognizing that heating either did no favor to our winter crops that thrived with the cooler temps, it simply didn’t make sense to continue with Tilapia. Hence, Catfish and Koi, welcome to Green Acre!
Now for the most exciting stop on our upcoming 2012 journey. This year we launch our new and comprehensive training program, Green Acre’s Aquaponic Training, The Complete Course. Our first training will be held here in Brooksville Florida in April and the two back to back courses are quickly beginning to fill up. This course will teach the methods, the science, and the business and empower others to join us in the movement that will relocalize sustainable food production. We recognize that today’s health conscious consumers hunger for good, clean, locally grown food and this course teaches the entrepreneur or “farmpreneur” how to build a business to meet those needs.
Coupled with the Complete Course is the add on workshop with Penn and Cord Parmenter. Penn and Cord will share their incredible passive solar greenhouse design and their seed saving and adapting know how.
Wonder what else may be in store for Green Acre’s new year journey? Us too! Be sure to stay tuned and we will definitely let you know!