I started the pre-7 AM seasonal farmer wake-up last supermoon Saturday, March 19th. Groggilly, I trudged over to 81st and Kinsman to be a part of RID-ALL’s ”Green ’N Tha Ghetto,” which if I may add RID-ALL is a horrible name for a greening project. It sounds like RID-ALL is going to exterminate us. As for the ghetto, the site location seemed to be more like a wasteland, which is the next step in an area’s decline after most folks leave the ghetto.
When I type wasteland, I don’t type it lightly. In a total area of at least five acres, there were about four houses. The rest were demolished. Trash was strewn everywhere, abandoned cars, Wild Irish Rose bottles, fast food wrappers, the norm. There were at least two separate packs of wild dogs. My buddy, Chad, almost fell into a six-foot sinkhole while walking on the ”sidewalk,” and there was a fire-burning, tarp-built homeless shelter in the woods. If there were ever an area that needed stabilized, then this is it. I hope, additionally, RID-ALL takes the time to get rid of all the litter in the area.
The workshop was broken up into two separate workgroups: worm culture/composting and fish culture. Will Allen led the composting group, while some younger guy, named Ryan, put together the fish and plant-growing bunkbed. I focused my energies on the fish culture, and as such had very little dealings with Mr. Allen that day. My few interludes with the compost group left me the impression of WIll Allen as some sort of Urban Farming Drill Sargent, complete with ”I can’t hear you!” calls, followed by the group’s shouting response.
Now I gotta admit that even though this was a workshop, I was relatively a bum that day. However in my defense, there were people in the crowd who had never operated a cordless drill/saw before or used a socket wrench. Furthermore, I will be digging plenty of holes in the forthcoming months. Lastly, I listened hard, and I feel like I got the blueprint burned into my brain. Winning!
Basically, that blue print is very much like a 4 X 8 bunkbed with six 4 X 4 posts on the outside of the structure. The fish pond was the bottom bunk, made with three stacked 2 X 12s to a height of three feet and lined with 0.45 mil pond liner. The top bunk would have been a little more scary to sleep with a single 2 X 4 as the lone wall. The top was minimally angled so that water could use gravity to drop back down into the fish pond through a standard shower drain. The top was also pond liner lined and eventually filled with pea gravel or lava rock.
So the whole system works with a sump pump in the fish pond which sucks up water/fish poop/nitrites and nitrates and pumps it to the pea graveled top bunk. The pea gravel is the biofilter that breaks the nitrites and nitrates down into plant-usable nitrogen for the plants that are also growing on the top bunk. Subsequently, the bio-filtration also cleans the water for the fish’s sake, and the gravity fall to the fish pond aerates the water. The Growing Power folks claimed the bacterial population in the pea gravel was naturally occurring, but I think it has much more to do with filling the pond with five-gallon buckets of water that formerly housed worm casings. All in all, it seemed fairly simple, especially after doing a hydroponics internship at Gardens Under Glass this winter.
At the time of the workshop’s conclusion, I felt all my questions had been answered. However a couple days later now, I have a major question about fish and disease, and whether or not Growing Power have dealt with disease in any of their tilapia or perch growing. If anybody has any input on this, that would be greatly appreciated.
After this Growing Power workshop, I feel ready, able, and wanting to farm some fish. However, it seems that a greenhouse is a necessary first step. So I’m just throwing this out there. If anybody is interested in sponsoring or partnering with Old Husher in greenhouse construction, then please be in contact.
Several examples of sponsorships immediately come to mind. I wouldn’t mind partnering with a non-profit, like a Development Corporation, who in return could get CSA Shares for the hungry in their area. This is what I call the CSA Share Revenue Bond. It could also work with an individual philanthropic donor.
Another partnership could be with a corporation, most-likely food-based like a restaurant or caterer. In this partnership, the corporation would buy the greenhouse in exchange for ultra-local access of a percentage of produce/fish at market prices. In return, the corporation gets a say (within reason) as to what’s grown in the greenhouse, as well as ultra-local bragging rights.
Well, there I go on my soapbox again. But those are just two examples off the top of my head with what feels like unlimited permutations. So seriously, I believe some amazing things can get done through some of these small-scale partnerships. If anybody wants to get in touch in order to do so, then please do.