Microgreens Farm Based in Etowah County, Alabama on Aiming to Build Several Farm Locations Throughout the Southeastern
What's The Name of Your Farm and where are you based?
The name of our farm is, “Gardens On Air – A Local Farm, Inc.”. We are based out of Etowah County, Alabama (35903) and our Corporate Office is in Rainbow City (35906) and our actual growing facility is in Hokes Bluff (35903).
What's the story of Gardens On Air?
How everything started, how difficult was in the beginning and what happened then, how did you find your first customers.
We started July 29th, 2010 as a small farm exclusively growing Aeroponic Vertical Produce for my father who has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
We could not find a produce in Alabama that had not been imported form out of Country or out of state. Plus, we could not find what kind of chemicals had been used on any of the produce.
With him, and other cancer patients, not being able to have those chemicals while doing chemotherapy we just decided to start growing for ourselves.
Its always been about helping others and I do not think we have ever really thought about making money, except to have enough to just make the bills. Tweet this
We were the very first Vertical Aeroponic Farm in the USA to become USDA Certified Organic in 2011.
What is the funniest/most exciting story you've experienced while running the farm?
The funniest thing that has happened at our farm is that our twins, who are now 12, were around 2 when we started growing in a greenhouse.
We used Deep Water Culture, and still do, as our growing practice. In the early days we used IBC totes and would cut them in two pieces.
One part for the fish below and the other to grow vegetables on the top. So, we were doing Aquaponics as well.
Some of the IBC tanks would be filled with water and in Alabama during the summertime in a greenhouse it would get up to 120 degrees.
I turned around one day, and both my kids were inside a couple of the IBC tanks that had plain water and were swimming. They thought that was the best day and I thought it was the funniest.
What types of microgreens and other produce are you currently growing?
At this point we are growing a variety of microgreens, herbs, and produce. We only use Non-GMO, USDA Organic or Heirloom seed from trusted sources.
Our list of microgreens includes:
- Red Rubin Basil
- Barleygrass. Just to name a few.
What makes your produce different?
Instead of getting your typical USDA Organic Certification, we have strived to receive our Certified Vegan, Certified Naturally Grown, Non-GMO, and since we have been in business almost 10 years people know and trust that we do not use any chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. If we use anything it is OMRI Certified and/or something we make up naturally. We also use beneficial microbes and beneficial bugs to make up for what others use chemicals for.
What type of clients do you currently serve?
Our clients are first and foremost everyday people who just buy from us directly to have a better health experience.
We sell to local Chefs and Chefs within the Region throughout Alabama, Georgia, & Tennessee.
We also serve all types of restaurants, wedding planners, special events, Grocery Stores, Health Food Stores, Juice Bars, Schools, and Universities.
What's Your Mission?
Gardens On Air – A Local Farm, Inc. is a Christian Economically Challenged Woman Owned Small Business / Farm in rural Alabama.
Gardens On Air – A Local Farm, Inc. is an early-stage S-Corporation Woman Owned Small Business offering innovative technology to revolutionize Indoor Hydroponic Agriculture.
Our goal is to use energy saving LED’s, Wind Turbines, and Solar Panels on the roof and in available areas on the business land to save energy.
We will do our best to be a prime example of how commercial industries can benefit from using renewable energies and local citizenry to enhance business talent.
Our company goal is to build several farm locations throughout the Southeastern United States, which will be placed strategically in area’s that do not have access to fresh, locally grown food, also known as “Food Desserts”. These farms will provide good paying jobs and high-quality fresh, nutritious food to these areas without the fear of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and unknown food sources.
Our Core Community Involvement will be Single Parents, Low-Level Inmates who are transitioning back into society to lower recidivism rates, Economically Challenged Parents, U.S. Veterans of Military & Law Enforcement, Members of Rehab Groups graduating in good standing back into society, and the Mentally Challenged who may be limited in job performance.
Our company will donate 10% of our food and/or profits to local food banks, local families, local charities, and of course to national emergency situations that may arise where we can help provide fresh, clean, chemical free food to those in emergencies.
We will be an educational facility where students, from Kindergarten through College, will be allowed an educational experience that they may never get to see firsthand. We will utilize in person training and demonstrations at schools or on site at the growing facility. Technology will be an asset as we can teach classrooms of students or adults living close or thousands of miles away via the Internet Video Systems. We will partner with Local Schools, Churches, Home Schoolers, Private Schools, Prisons, or Public Educational Facility agriculture groups to allow them a “real world” experience.
Civic Groups, such as the elderly and special needs groups will be granted access to the public production greenhouse so they can see the plants as well as assist in the harvesting process and feel the excitement of knowing they will help someone within their own community. We feel this will also help these people keep connected with society and themselves.
Compared to all other farming techniques, Gardens On Air will use a soilless floating raft Hydroponic Growing System which enables growing delicious and nutritious vegetables with less effort, in smaller space, free of herbicides and artificial pesticides, with minimal water usage, and in less time. We will also utilize Hydroponic, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Aquaponic, Aeroponic, and Vermiculture to grow our products without the use of soil.
We desperately need partnership with School Systems, Universities, Senior Citizen Facilities, Produce Distribution Centers, Private and Government Entities, Local – County – State – and Federal Law Prison Systems. We want to partner with likeminded individuals who will help us not only financially but in a way that will enhance our ability to spread our mission to all those in need.
The Return On Investment will be substantial in that we will be able to make a reasonable fiscal return after all expenses (ROI), and make a huge community achievement return by bringing our farm to areas in need; thus enhancing the living experience of those involved. The ability to give opportunity to those who have no opportunity will be of utmost importance.
Our Farm can produce year-round, pesticide / herbicide / chemical free hydroponic lettuce, produce, microgreens, and herbs. This ability gives us an advantage over other farms as we can provide very strong job stability for those who work with us. Having our farm inside closed facilities and refurbishing them to work as a farm also enhances a city’s ability to bring other farms to their area by giving them a tool to attract farms like ours. Many cities have closed factories or warehouses than can be used to grow food year-round to feed the very community its sitting in.
Sadly, a lot of smaller farms and ones that started just recently are struggling to survive due to the huge drop in sales this spring.
What would you do if you were in a similar situation, but had the experience you have today?
Think Outside The Box…. I cannot emphasize this enough. Try to set up a weekly pickup site for your customers. If you have any extra seed grow it, especially if its beneficial for health reasons, and then just give it to a few people that you know would appreciate it –PEOPLE THAT WILL TELL OTHERS.
Make a presence on all social media and let people know that you are still growing.
If there is something that they really want, make the extra effort to get it… most seed companies will give you a small sample of something to let your customers try.
I guarantee if you get a small sample, even if you have to pay for it, and give it to someone who has that specific desire then word will spread of your integrity and ability to over come issues. Customers want consistency.
They want to know that you are going to keep providing when things get rough to. Just be accessible to them. And above all else always be honest with them about things.
If your microgreens don’t produce, tell them, if you don’t have enough, tell them, if you have to much, give them a little extra at no cost because they remember the little things for a long time.
Lee, LeeAnn, Lexi & Nic Harrison Gardens On Air – A Local Farm, Inc.