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.
On Fogo Island, N.L., Jarrod Oglan, his partner Amanda Stephen, and their four-year-old son Gheorghe, have been running Living Waters Farm since December, after buying the four-year-old hydroponics operation from founder 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. “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, and 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.
Source: SaltWire Network