US (WA): Pair turns sandpit into hydroponic farm

Tracy Lang and Mark Taylor are turning an old sandpit into farmland by using chicken tillage, cover crops, and wood chips to amend the soil and rewild the area.

Nearly 40 people turned out on September 25 to see how Lang and Taylor operate the hydroponic Vireo Farm on Bainbridge to grow herbs and veggies, raise Japanese quail and chickens, and restore native food plants all in one location. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil.

Taylor explained that the state of the land and the plants are what has been allowed to grow and live in this area. “You’re looking at soil that’s not even a millimeter thick, and it’s been twenty years. It’s a problem. We’d like to change that by accelerating it.”

The farm on Island Center Road used to be a brown field. “It’s not toxic waste. It’s just been abused. I think that looking forward to the future, as we go around and try to make a livable, sustainable place in our local ecology, we’re going to be confronting this problem more and more. How do you take a parking lot and turn it into a farm?” Taylor said. In this case, Lang and Taylor are turning a sandpit and excavated dirt from the construction of the movie theater in Winslow into a large outdoor garden and 1,800- square -foot hydroponics farm. 

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