Opinion - Food
4:57 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Fort Wayne Farm Promotes Sustainable Food By Nixing the Soil

The locavore movement is starting to take hold in Northeast Indiana, as is evident by the growing popularity of farmers markets. We want to know where our food is grown and raised. When you buy produce from the grocery store, you don’t know where or by whom it was grown.

Often, even when you buy organic, you can’t be certain fruits and vegetables are free of pesticides and preservatives, as some are allowed even under certified organic rules. The same is true for meat, poultry, and seafood.  Unless you know the farmer, you can’t be 100% certain that the food you are eating is free of harmful chemicals.

Enter Get Fresh Farms, Fort Wayne’s first aquaponics farm that raises fresh tilapia and grows a wide variety of vegetables. Aquaponics comes from a combination of hydroponics, growing fruits and vegetables without soil, and aquaculture, raising fish in a controlled environment.

At Get Fresh Farms’ facility, water from the tilapia tanks is filtered, fish waste is broken down into nitrates, and those nitrates become the nutrients for the vegetables, creating a closed loop system with no run off. The plants clean the water and it runs back to the fish tanks. It’s an impressive self-sustaining process.

WBOI Food Columnist Amber Recker.
WBOI Food Columnist Amber Recker.
Credit Courtesy / Amber Recker

Located near the Fort Wayne airport, Get Fresh Farms consists of a large greenhouse and a 4,500-square-foot aquatic room where they raise tilapia that is served exclusively at JK O’Donnell’s or sold to the public live and on ice.

Every six weeks, they breed new fish in an aquarium, and two months after the fish hatch, they are moved into one of eight production tanks housed within the facility. It takes ten to eleven months for the fish to grow big enough to harvest.

Currently, Get Fresh Farms is harvesting 40 fish per week. That means Northeast Indiana residents can get fresh locally raised tilapia year round.

As far as vegetables go, Get Fresh Farms grows everything from seed, including leaf lettuce, mixed greens, kale, Swiss chard, basil, spinach, mint, tomatoes, hot peppers, collard greens, nasturtium, and parsley. Soon you’ll be able to order online and have produce delivered right to your door if you live within 25 miles of Fort Wayne, but for now, you can find them at Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market at Parkview Field the first and third Saturdays of every month through May.

This summer, Get Fresh Farms will be at the Barr Street Market in downtown Fort Wayne every Saturday. Because of the closed loop water system, the vegetables are grown without the use of harmful chemicals. I don’t know about you, but having fresh, locally grown tomatoes throughout the winter is pretty exciting. I can’t get enough of them. They are delicious—bright red and juicy; perhaps the best tomatoes I’ve ever had.

Get Fresh Farms has big plans for the future, including a larger facility and an expanded product line that will include organic dog treats.  Our girls, Lucy and Lenora, two adorable Great Danes, tried a test batch and loved them. I felt good knowing I was giving them something made with fresh vegetables, grown locally and completely free of chemicals.

If you’d like to learn more about Get Fresh Farms, consider taking a $5 tour of the facility, or visit their website, www.getfreshfarms.com.

 

Amber Recker is the Director of Marketing at PUNCH Films and co-owner of The Ginger Kitchen, makers of locally-sourced gourmet ice cream.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff, management or board of Northeast Indiana Public Radio. If you want to join the conversation, head over to our Facebook page and comment on the post featuring this column.