Hydroponic Family Farming

family hydroponic farming

Hydroponic tech and some creative thinkers serving up fresh Atlantic lettuce in winter

Hydroponic Family Farming | Barb Dean-Simmons |

Rows of bright green leaves poke up from rows of white plastic tubing, waving slightly in the wind produced by electric fans.

Lettuce, kale and sorrel neatly fill the space inside a building that used to be a schoolhouse on Fogo Island.

These days it’s home to a business that’s proving hydroponics can be the means to produce local lettuce, year-round, in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Jarrod Oglan and his partner, Amanda Stephen, with four-year-old son, Gheorghe, assisting where he can, are the new owners of Living Water Hydroponic Farms Ltd

The seeds for the venture were planted four years ago by Dwight Budden.

Budden was taking a break from his career as a pastor and got to thinking about the lack of local, fresh lettuce.

One old schoolhouse, hundreds of feet of PVC piping and about 200 weeks of trial and error later, Living Water Farm was producing enough lettuce and other leafy greens to supply grocery stores on the island with fresh produce every week.

The profit margin was also showing promise.

At the same time Budden was experimenting with hydroponics, Oglan and Stephen had started their own agriculture adventure, raising chickens and tending to an 800-square-foot garden on their homestead.

Prior to that, Oglan’s only connection to agriculture was the fact he grew up in a corn-farming community in southern Ontario.

He was in the culinary industry for awhile — it’s what brought him to Fogo Island, to work at the Fogo Island Inn in 2016.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and it put a bit of a damper on his culinary career, he said.

He began to consider agriculture.

“For the past five years I’ve been doing some research, trying to get some land to set up a sheep farm here on Fogo Island,” he said.

The idea was to raise the animals for meat and wool.

Then they learned Budden was selling the hydroponics business.

Budden had decided to return to his former career, accepting a posting as a Pentecostal pastor in Hare Bay in nearby Gander Bay.

He couldn’t take the farm with him.

Oglan already had some idea of how the operation worked — with a common passion for growing local, the two men had chatted many times.

He decided to put sheep farming on the back burner and devote his time and energy to hydroponics.

Inside what used to be an old schoolhouse, the Living Waters hydroponic farm produces a variety of lettuces and other greens, no matter the weather outside. - Contributed

Image: Inside what used to be an old schoolhouse, the Living Waters hydroponic farm produces a variety of lettuces and other greens, no matter the weather outside. – Contributed

“It was a great turnkey opportunity,” Oglan added. “(The Buddens) had spent the better part of the last four years building this from a simple hobby into a viable business.”

It meant Oglan and Stephen didn’t have to start from scratch.

The couple officially took over the business in November.

They’ve been quite busy ever since, tending to the 21 main growing beds in the 3,500-square-foot building, maintaining the routine of planting, transplanting and harvest.

Their main product is salad mix, with bags filled with lettuce, kale and sorrel, selling it through grocery stores on Fogo Island and an order every other week to a group of people on Change Islands.

“We’ve also started selling our products at Campbellton Berry Farm (near Lewisporte) and we deliver to Coleman’s, who distribute it to some of their stores in the province.”

Currently, said Oglan, they’re producing about 100 pounds of product a week.

It’s reached the point where they’ve had to hire a part-time staffer to help with the operation.

The aim is to get busier.

“I’m just a small producer, but I’m hoping to at least double my production by the end of the year, and then increase it each year,” he told SaltWire Network.

Read the Entire Original Article Here: https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/business/hydroponic-tech-and-some-creative-thinkers-serving-up-fresh-atlantic-lettuce-in-winter-100824632/