AN URBAN FARM MAKES HISTORY, MOVES TOWARD A BETTER TOMORROW

Port Angeles, Washington – A dazzling variety of salad greens thrive year round in the cool and cloudy Pacific Northwest, nurtured by urban farmer, sculptor and teacher Maureen Wall. Her creative experiments in aquaponics — which combines growing plants in water (hydroponics) with aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) — may herald the future of food production.

image1-1Edible plants with their roots water fertilized by the fish using no soil and only a tenth of the water conventional agriculture demands maximizes the amount of food you can grow in a small space. Wall’s innovation – using no electricity for light and heating — makes this green system even greener.

Some fish thrive in cold water

Three years ago Wall began raising cold water fish, not the conventional catfish or tilapia, in her tanks. “I knew delicious, high-value fish like Arctic char, sturgeon and trout all thrive in cold water. I live in Port Angeles, Washington – the home of cold water. So why waste energy to create an artificial environment for fish that won’t naturally thrive in the conditions we have?”

She’s now proven you can successfully raise cold water fish in an aquaponics operation.

Wall had no idea how remarkable this success was until she was contacted by a group from Seattle that wanted to feature aquaponic salad greens for a special fundraising dinner. Her hand-crafted back yard operation was the only place in the state able to produce banquet-size portions of organic aquaponic greens for FareStart, a forward-thinking Seattle non-profit.

 This is Odd: An Urban Aquaponic Farm grew from Wall’s decision to rehabilitate a venerable Odd Fellows Hall on a block between a traditionally industrial area and the center of downtown Port Angeles. This is Odd seems an apt name for the site that’s as a test bed for experimental growing techniques.

 Mushrooms on coffee grounds and clams for filters

Freshwater clams enhance her filtration system and edible mushrooms pop up on organic coffee grounds reclaimed from a nearby shop. Next up: an experiment with growing wasabi, a water-intensive crop, using a recirculating system. This is Odd: An Urban Aquaponic Farm can grow enough salad greens to supply area restaurants interest in offering outstanding locally sourced organic ingredients.

 Urban farm barn raiser

To support her experiments in improved food-growing, Wall has turned to Barnraiser, a crowdfunding site that supports good food and healthy living. She’d also like to develop a job/training program and strengthen her distribution system. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

Pledges from supporters must reach $7,000 by January 1, 2016 — or she gets nothing. To pledge your support for this unique mix of urban farming, agricultural innovation, community revitalization and appreciation for good, fresh local food, click here:www.barnraiser.us/projects/this-is-odd-an-urban-farm-expansion.

Reclaimed from urban decay

When she first moved in, her south-facing back yard, alley and surroundings were a sea of abandoned vehicles and garbage.

Ten years later, a prolific grapevine twines three stories up the wooden staircase on the alley side of the brightly painted building reclaimed from urban decay. A dazzling variety of sustainably grown organic salad greens thrive in her aquaponic greenhouses and cold frames. Townsfolk are treated to the unexpected sight of a profusion of greens, artichokes and lavender in a once decrepit urban alley.

Her downtown operation functions both indoors and out, using fish, water filters and pumps from tanks inside the building to provide nutrients to the outside grow-bed on an adjacent lot.

Sharing Innovation with students

Maureen’s luscious greens graced the tables of a Seattle benefit for “Project Feed 1010 ,”which aims to address food security by reducing the environmental footprint of crop production and creating a sustainable urban agricultural economy. An program at Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology, “Project Feed 1010” taps into crowdsourcing to coordinate scientists and educators worldwide to improve sustainable agriculture systems, while also developing entrepreneurs and a supporting workforce.

Wall’s hands-on experience thrilled educators aiming to bring aquaponics systems into Seattle area schools; she’s been consulting with the Institute for Systems Biology as they develop their program.

Maureen’s hand-crafted systems approach will be featured in an upcoming issue of Planet Magazine, published by Western Washington State University’s Huxley College of Environment. Its topic: Innovation.

 

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dianasomerville

A freelance writer who lives near Olympic National Park in a house overlooking the Salish Sea, I'm nourished by Mother Nature and enjoy exploring the places where science, spirit, and story come together. Part science geek, part spiritual feminist, part Earth-loving tree-hugger, I continue learning the many ways that how we think and what we believe helps shape our world. Quantum physics shows us that our personal energy is too often overlooked as force for positive change; indigenous wisdom leads us to connect with all beings in a good way. I've told the research stories of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and contributed regular columns for newspapers in Boulder, Colo., Sequim and Port Angeles Washington.

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