For the first few years under Darin and Deborah Kelley, "Good Life Farms" was a conventional farm, growing many varieties of veggies and flowers in the soil. Their work was challenging, they enjoyed finding new and better ways of improving their crops and kept busy experimenting with things.
Neither of them knew anything about hydroponics, other than having some fuzzy perceptions about its uses and outcomes (doesn't taste good; it's weird and unnatural, etc.), being the researching types they are, it didn't take long in their studies to come across the effectiveness and benefits of growing hydroponically. They became more and more intrigued. After a nasty flood in 2008 wiped out a large amount of their crops, they decided to create a small hydroponic test, just to see if it was something they might want to explore further.
After a great deal of research, and some experimentation with a very small floating raft setup in their basement, and a successful salad, they began reaching out to suppliers, commercial hydroponic growers, and small-scale growers to learn everything they could. Their first greenhouse went up in the fall of 2009, and by winter, they had hydroponic lettuce on the way to market.
After an injury in Afghanistan, Lee moved to Arizona, along with Nate soon following him moving from Thailand. We started experimenting with hydroponics in 2016 by growing tomatoes and lettuce in a micro-system. After harvesting a fantastic salad, we were hooked on hydroponics! We started researching all that we could about hydroponics and started the hunt for our new farm. That search ended when we found "Good Life Farms". We purchased it in December of 2017 and have slowly upgraded it be be the commercial operation it is today. One example was computerized systems to monitor and inject the proper amount of nutrients and maintain the correct PH level was installed along with a huge wood boiler to heat both greenhouses. Constant testing has been done to insure the highest quality mushrooms and lettuce that we can grow.
Nate and myself are very excited about being able to provide our community a safe and high quality food source locally here in Solsberry. This business has been challenging and very rewarding but it's proof that hard work and dedication does pay off. We would like to thank Darin and Deb for their patience and guidance during the transition and throughout the last year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nate for all of the hard work and personal attention it took from him to make this company what it is today!
FAQ: Frequently asked questions about hydroponics
How does it work, and is it natural?
We enjoy engaging in the philosophical conversation of whether agriculture can ever be considered "natural," but that's a conversation for another time...
All plants have roots that take up nutrients. However, the roots cannot access nutrients unless those nutrients are suspended in water. All plants are fed through water. Water is the delivery system. We use a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), in which our plants' roots are supported in a growing medium, and placed in channels where a very thin film of nutrified water flows constantly over the roots. The water starts out in a large reservoir, and is pumped through manifolds and emitters to the hydro channels; the roots take up what they need, and the water flows back into the reservoir, where it is recycled over and over.
The water used in a hydroponic system is as natural as that used in conventional growing. It can come from a well or from a municipal system.
The question could be broken down a little further: what is the source of the nutrients, and is THAT natural?
What ARE nutrients, and are yours organic?
Plant nutrition includes the macro and micronutrients needed to sustain a plant's life. These can come from organic or synthetic sources. When growers put MiracleGro (or in the case of industrial farms, Anhydrous Ammonia) on their plants, they are using a synthetic fertilizer that contains the macro and micro nutrients the plant needs to survive. When growers put composted horse manure on their plants, they are using organic fertilizer that also contains the macro and micro nutrients the plant needs to survive. In our case, we use water-soluble mineral salts to provide our plants with the macro and micro nutrients they need. Our mineral salts come from a "natural" source, however they are not technically considered organic because they do not have a carbon-based origin. We have avoided organic fertilizers because in our system, organic matter would not break down easily in the water and would clog up the emitters.
Do you use sprays?
We use only organic sprays, as needed, to help control pests if they become troublesome.
How does it taste?
We used to be under the impression that fruits and veggies from hydroponic plants were inferior to those grown in soil; but it didn't take long for us to learn that is not the case. We have grown dozens of varieties of veggies and tomatoes in hydroponic systems over the years, and have always found them to be as good or better than their soil-grown relatives. We believe that the quality of the nutrition is directly correlated to the quality and flavor of the resulting produce. If you're not sure, come try for yourself!
Have other questions about hydroponic growing or Good Life Farms? Feel free to contact us!