I consider the Mississippi Delta to be one of the best (if not the best) sources of quality land and available ground water in the world. So do my neighbors, and it comes as no surprise to me when they ask me what the hell I’m doing by starting a hydroponic greenhouse farm on this very productive land. The added issue of using rainwater when our groundwater is so plentiful and good also throws them a curve.
Our friends know that we started out this venture with the intentions of understanding first hand hydroponics and rainwater catchment and use so that we could make a smooth (or not as reckless) transition to setting up this system in the Turks and Caicos islands. We wanted to make our mistakes at home, learn from our mistakes, and then hopefully not repeat them in the Caribbean.
What this concept has morphed into has been quite a surprise to me, a good surprise though:
First off, Pam, my wife and business partner, started showing up every morning to assist me in the greenhouse pruning the tomato plants. She started remarking that the time spent working there was therapeutic. Small pleasures like the first bloom and then the first tomato were shared between us. She embraced the concept completely.
Then, when the tomatoes starting ripening, a bit of serendipity took place:
We had visited a rather large and successful hydroponic greenhouse in Mississippi in June. The owner told us that in his first year of production he had given the majority of his tomatoes to the Food Bank. I had planned on giving away the tomatoes to grocery stores and restaurants in the Memphis area, also to friends and relatives. Again, what we were doing was learning this new method of farming, and my main goal was to produce great looking and great tasting tomatoes.
What took place next was breathtaking is its simplicity and good fortune. My sister-in-law works in a children’s research hospital in Memphis. When our tomatoes started coming off, Pam took both our cherry tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes to her to give to her friends and associates at the hospital. She took some down to the food purchaser for the hospital, and before Pam had made it home, he called and told her he would buy all the tomatoes that we could deliver. He remarked on the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and the flavor of the beefsteak ones. This had been my goal, and as I say to many who remark about the sweet taste, “That is why Tomatoes are fruits”.
This has changed our plans in Arkansas. We now are ordering another bay to be put in this winter. With the addition, we will be able to triple our production.
This doesn’t change our main goal of a Caribbean operation, but the permanence of our operation here in the Mid-South is no longer in doubt.
Now our son has caught the bug. He has spent the last month living on the farm, and showing up for work in the greenhouse every morning. And he will be taking greenhouse management and sustainable agriculture courses in college in Washington state starting in January.
We are truly blessed.