This is the first in my new Green Acre Organics blog series at http://www.greenacreorganics.biz/blog/ However, as I was posting it here, it occurred to me that I missed a huge thank you. I am incredibly grateful for the folks and friends I have met and made here. There are those that keep me thinking and questioning like Kobus, Rupert and Raychel and those that almost always have something kind and supportive to say like Sahib or there is TCLnyx with her never ending wealth of knowledge she always seems to have time to share. I remember when Cosmo kept insisting that we join the some 600 or so members here and I thought, join a forum! What on earth would I do there? My how things have changed! Please read on...
It seems fitting that our first blog would come at this time year right after celebrating Thanksgiving where we take the time to express gratitude for all the wonderful things in our lives. As I reflect on the past year, there is much that I and Green Acre have to be thankful for, but first I am going to thank those that are at the top of my very own list.
Tonya Penick - I could devote this entire blog to why I am grateful for Tonya! Not only is Tonya the literal work horse of Green Acre, she puts up with me and my crazy amount of energy and desire to often take on more than I should. At the beginning of the year when I began talking about putting together a conference with my then soon to be friend Sylvia Bernstein, Tonya knew it meant that she would have to manage the majority of the workload for the farm. Not only did Tonya agree, but she unselfishly supported me as I spent much time planning and organizing the conference and also the new Aquaponics Association. As eager as Tonya was for the Conference to come and go so that life could return to some normalcy, she still supported me when I told her that it would not. This time it meant that I wanted to now shift my focus, attention and time from the Conference to being the Chairman of the new Aquaponics Association. With a sigh of resignation which was followed by that look that says ok, I will keep working long hours so you can do this too, Tonya has always been the behind the scenes support of Green Acre and me and also manages to always do it with a smile.
Sylvia Bernstein of The Aquaponic Source and the Aquaponic Gardening Community - At the beginning of the year, Sylvia was little more to me than that lady that moderated the Aquaponic Gardening Community and managed a great business catering to backyard enthusiasts. However, as we both became entrenched in organizing the Aquaponics Association Conference something amazing happened. With the flurry of frequent emails and late night Skype calls, an incredible friendship blossomed out of a wonderful working relationship where we clicked so well it was like we had known each other for years. There were times when we laughed so much that it seemed like nothing could get done but instead together we accomplished what would normally take a whole crew. Now she is my dearest friend and someone whose business savvy, work ethic and integrity I admire more than most I have met in my life.
Friends and Volunteers - At the top of Green Acre’s list are the volunteers that have filtered in and out of our lives and farm. Most have come along at the perfect time when some project needed done that was above and beyond normal farm chores and they have come eager to help in exchange for learning about aquaponics. First there was Paul who after a dismal experience with aquaponics came to help us toil in the heat as we built our system so that he could replicate one for himself. Then there was David, who was the only attendee at our first farm tour in the middle of a raging storm and who went on to build a fabulous system of his own. Also our wonderful friends Andre and Diane, Jena and Travis, and Christine and Barbara who come to help from time to time just because they are great people and think what we do is cool. We have to literally force these people to take home some aquaponically grown groceries as our way of saying thanks! Of course there is also Edgar who has traded his incredible fish knowledge in exchange for our aquaponic know how and last there is Jim, the retired master carpenter who has helped with everything from helping to build a chicken coop to our walk in cooler and our new system and is forever happy and whistling while he works. I often say we manage the actual farm work with just the two of us, but all the supplemental projects we almost always have going on have been possible because of the great help and support of these giving folks.
Karen Greeneway and Laura DeWitt - Next, we at Green Acre are incredibly thankful for our friends, the owners at the Get Healthy Vitamins and Natural Foods. Karen and Laura have been some of our biggest fans and supporters. They opened up their stores to us to sell our produce and also for our Green Acre Organics For You! buying club. We couldn’t ask for better partners as we grow our farm and business and are so grateful that they have welcomed us into their family.
Honorable Mention - There are a few others that require some special mention and a big thank you. Cosmo, who has always been a die hard fan and who has earned the honorary designation as a Green Acre Groupie. Chef Audrey who deals with our produce overtaking her walk in cooler every week. Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics who didn’t hesitate when I asked for some help and advice. Wayne Hall who jumped in with both feet into helping Sylvia and I with the Aquaponics Association Charter and who perpetually “has my back” as the AA Secretary. Ali Walter who not only designed our very cool logo, but also scrambled whenever I asked to get a new project done. Tonya’s Mom and step dad Wayne that keep us company and always are willing to help at the Farmers Market and last but not least my Dad, who has always believed in what we were doing and is undoubtedly our biggest fan. Our list would not be complete without mentioning our customers, from chefs to farmers market regulars to our buying club members. For all of these, we are especially grateful.
Tour Guests - The last group of people we must thank is our tour guests. These folks come from practically everywhere to see what we do and inspire us to inspire them. Since we opened our farm to visitors, more than 500 aquaponic enthusiasts have come to tour our farm. We are astounded that we have had people from as far away and diverse as Canada, Kenya, Romania, Crete, the Bahamas, Trinidad, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaraqua and from a multitude of states. How incredible that these people take the time, energy and expense to come and see what we do and then listen to every word we have to say as if their lives depended on it. Aside from doing something we believe in wholeheartedly that we know makes a difference, seeing the aknowledgment and incredulous wonder at their reaction fuels our passion that much more.
We often say that we still can’t believe that we get to do something so amazing. We grow food the most sustainable and cleanest way possible and it is just simply as cool as can be. Now we also get to teach people how to do what we do. It just keeps getting better and we are forever grateful.