Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why I Farm - Green Bridge Growers

Name of Farm 
Green Bridge Growers

Tell Me About Your Farm 
We’re based in South Bend, Indiana, and feature year-round growing using cutting-edge, intensive methods to supply delicious, fresh produce for our region.  Practices like aquaponics (growing fish and vegetables together), composting, permaculture, and renewable energy are at the heart of what we do.  And our work also incorporates a social mission. We’re not only growing good food - we’re also growing good jobs for our community, because our farm puts to work adults with autism and provides them a pathway to employment.

What Do You Grow 
 Herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley; specialty greens and lettuces; tomatoes; fish.

Have You Always Been a Farmer 
No! I grew up in a farm family in Milwaukee, and our family had a farm on the fringes of the city. Wherever we lived when I was growing up, I saw my parents grow a garden. They did it because they loved to grow their own food, loved the idea of self-sufficiency, and they took pleasure in nurturing and caring for plants and vegetables. That carried over to me, and I trained as a Master Gardener right after college and have had a garden wherever I’ve lived too. I started our farm with my oldest son, Chris, as a way for him to be involved in what he loved as a young adult with autism - it’s a partnership that we participate in together. Chris has had a number of organic farming internships, and trained in agroecology, and to prepare for our venture I’ve trained in aquaponics, permaculture, and commercial urban agriculture (with the fabulous Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee).   I’ve taken my skills in business and community engagement and transferred them to our farming start-up. We hope that each commercial greenhouse we build will employ 5 individuals with autism. We have a prototype right now, and are ready to launch our first commercial growing facility this spring.

What Do You Wish More People Knew About Farming 
That it is one of the most challenging professions around! The work never stops, and there is a lot of detail, precision, and scheduling to running a farm.  Chris and I both approach farming as a science, and try to keep up with the latest research and sustainable practices.  We think that makes what we grow of the highest quality and very healthy and fresh.  We thrive on this work and know we are helping to make a real difference in people’s lives and health.  We feel we are the luckiest people on the planet to be doing what we love and enriching people’s nutrition and quality of life!

About Green Bridge Growers, we would love aquaponics to be more of a household word! It’s a very exciting method of farming where fish and vegetables grow in tandem in a closed-loop system. The fish and plants benefit each other in such a system and the fish effluent acts as fertilizer for the plants, and the plants in turn purify the water back to the fish. Lots of promise to this method - it uses an amazing 90% less water. We like to think our farm benefits both people and the planet, because we are very focused on being sustainable.

Plans for the Farm 
We just finished a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise the capital to build our first commercial greenhouse, and will build that structure this spring. We plan to scale to 6000 square feet of vertical growing space over the next four years, employing 20 young adults with autism in the process.

Where Can People Buy Your Product
We have arrangements with our local Whole Foods, a number of restaurants in our region, and we will sell at our local farmers’ market and cooperative grocery store.

Thank you for reading about this wonderful farm! Please consider connecting with their facebook page and twitter social madia and visit their website.

 Thank you, Jan!

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