The final week of 2011 is here and it is almost time to start singing Auld Lang Syne. What started out as a Scottish poem in 1788 has become the anthem of New Years Eve. Ever wondered what the heck we sing about every year at midnight of December 31st? Well, apparently the song begins by asking whether or not old times should be forgotten and is also a reminder to remember long-standing and important friendships. At Green Acre, we certainly do not want to forget old times and definitely want to remember friendships. Let’s take a look at 2011.
“Old times” in 2011 for us meant farm tours and farmers markets and lots of aquaponic farming. We began the year with a thriving system and thriving farm tours. After a dismal first tour with one guest during a torrential rain, we were amazed at the response of the next one. In fact, we started getting such an incredible response that we soon had to ask guests to RSVP and remove our address from the website. Otherwise, we were getting overrun with 50 or more wanting to tour our farm! It became very apparent that people wanted to learn about aquaponics and they were coming to Green Acre to do just that.
Along with managing free tours for large groups and frequent private tours during the week, we also began to figure out how to better manage our product and presence at our local farmers markets. We set up at several before settling in at the new market our friends and fellow vendors produced, The Hernando County Farmers Market. They provided a great home for us every Saturday from 10am to 3pm and Green Acre is there selling our fresh aquaponically grown produce and also certified organic fruits and veggies at great prices. We were actually delivering what we had set out to do; make clean, organic food more affordable to our community. We always say, you shouldn’t have to be wealthy to eat healthy!
This year Green Acre Organics For You! was also launched and it too brings clean, naturally grown and organic fruits and veggies to our community. In less than a year, we have 67 members, two pick up locations and a third coming soon. We have consistently provided organic produce to our members at a far better price and selection then what is available locally. Our grocery stores in Brooksville have limited options and the prices are unaffordably high. We often price compare with Whole Foods to insure that what we provide our members is not only high in quality but value too.
This past year also saw the development and announcement of our new training program. This was truly the culmination of much hard work and the answer to a phenomenal demand. So often the people we talked to and who emailed and called us, all had questions and wanted to know how to do what we do. It was an obvious progression for us and it also meant an opportunity to teach others about this incredible, sustainable way to grow food and how to help others localize their own food supply.
Then there was the Aquaponics Association Conference and forming the actual Association. Wow! What a whirlwind that has been! It all started with a forum discussion on the Aquaponic Gardening Community and before we knew it, Sylvia and I were entrenched in organizing what turned out to be a wildly successful event attended by 255 eager aquapons and an association dedicated to advancing and promoting aquaponics. Now as the Chairman for the AA, I continue to be invested in serving this industry and technology that has become my passion.
As for remembering the friendships, where do I even begin? I must say that aquaponics and creating our Green Acre farm has brought a wealth of incredible people into our lives and I am very fortunate to call many of them friends of which there are far too many to list. I am constantly amazed at how something as simple and sensible as growing fish and veggies together can catalyze so much more. You know there’s an old saying that farmers are cash poor and dirt rich, well this aquaponic farmer is wealthy in many more ways than that. I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings.