Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a facility called Quakerdale. The company that I work for has been a long time supporter of the organization and through them, I volunteer my time. Quakerdale is based in the country south of Eldora, Iowa and has facilities throughout the state of Iowa. They are a not for profit organization that provides a safe environment for hope and healing to children and also doubles as a family setting learning environment called the Promise Academy which produces NCAA level basketball players. This year, they started to convert their farm into a self sustaining farm that would produce its own food to help cut down on their expenses, while teaching the kids a unique learning environment, different levels of responsibility and potentially offer them job skills.
Part of this facility included Aquaponics. I can't tell you how excited I was to see their set up. I knew before hand that they had successfully created a aquaponics structure that was already producing vegetables. The thought of having this system in my basement, allowed me to wake up well before my alarm clock went off.
I arrived for my tour and was greeted by Lalaina, a super sweet, incredibly focused young lady that I have had the pleasure of knowing for well over a year. She was kind enough to take time out of her day to show me around their 600 acre farm. We started in the garden where they had herbs and flowers in raised beds. Of course it is September and this is their first year so things were looking as if they had the fall. You know that time where you just allow things to go since you know it is the end of the season and the plants don't look as lush and beautiful as they do at the beginning of the growing season. A little further off was where they had pole beans, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and maybe some other veggies that I failed to note. This area will also grow with time.
(I need to note that Quakerdale started this garden with volunteer help and through donations. Since many of their employees are already stretched for time and responsibilities, the garden must evolve as time allows)
Next in line was my most anticipated part of the tour, Aquaponics. Lalaina took me inside an out building where they had two large tables with grow lights, pea rock and plants! Inside! Aquaponics is the combination of fish raising and hydroponics. The system filters water filled with the fish by-products through a pump which enters one side of a bed full of pea rock. This pea rock is where the seeds are planted which of course eventually grows, using the fertilizer of the fish as nutrients. As the water filters through the pea rocks, it essentially is cleaned and then dumped back into the fish containment area. This system will allow the facility to provide fresh produce and as the fish mature, fresh fish to the students. By the way, all of the materials that Quakerdale used was repurposed and donated items. They were extremely grateful for all of the help the community has given them. What an incredible learning tool for the students and those in the community that help grow their self sustaining property.
This is the fish containment area where water is pumped out and
clean filtered water is pumped back in
Two large areas that will contain fish for their
outdoor aquaponics area
Lalaina then took me outdoors to what will eventually will be their outdoor Aquaponics area. Being in Iowa, of course this area will be heated. I can't wait to see how this evolves over time. As I was taking this tour, I was sending pictures to my husband showing him what our next project will be. If it will happen, I don't know, but a girl can dream.
Quakerdale also has two cows that they are currently trying to breed. Eventually this will provide their meat and possibly some to sell to raise more money.
Quakerdale has 6 locations throughout the state and runs on hard work and donations. To learn more about Quakerdale and all of the wonderful things they do, please visit http://www.quakerdale.org/ and to learn more about their Sustainable Agriculture program, please click here.
I hope to visit again in the spring when they begin planting their garden again. I may even start to volunteer, granted I have time. What an incredible opportunity to teach others about gardening and for me to learn more about aquaponics.
***You may visit Quakerdale by visiting their website at www.quakerdale.org, or call them at 641-497-5294, for more information. If you would like to get a tour of their facilities, please call and ask for Dean Kruger, Sustainable Agriculture Director. Or visit the Quakerdale Farms website.
I am a busy mother of two who doesn't have time to check the PH balance of my soil. I believe in try, try again. If it doesn't work the first time, there is always tomorrow. I love passing on what I have learned as well as the fruits of my labor.