Salvation Army’s Fresh Face Farm Makes a Hydroponic Splash

words and photos by Dave Daly

05/03/2018

Hydroponic Lettuce

Hydroponics is nothing new. However, advancements in technology have made the scope and scale of it much more adaptable to various world settings. Take the Salvation Army of Akron and Summit County for instance. On April 27 their latest endeavor, indoor farming, took root with the grand opening of Fresh Face Farm in Fort Romig over on, you guessed it, Romig road.

Once a non-descript storage building, Fort Romig has been transformed into a useable space for young Akronites. Here, they’ve already been engaging in all sorts of endeavors involving the arts and sciences. Now toddlers and teens alike will work in an 18,000 square foot indoor hydroponic farm system that’s predicted to produce upwards of 10 tons of tomatoes and 19,000 heads of lettuce annually. With only 5300 square feet currently under cultivation, there is definitely room for growth.

Much of the produce will go back into the communities served by the Salvation Army, some of which may face food insecurities. Neighborhoods in Akron and Summit County have been identified as food deserts. The USDA defines a food desert as an urban area without access to a retail grocery store within one square mile and a rural area without access within 10 square miles. These ‘deserts’ tend to leave residents with little choice for food, especially if they don’t own or operate a vehicle. When options become limited to the corner store or fast food restaurant, initiatives like Fresh Face Farm can have transformative and lasting effects on the way folks eat and engage with their food.

Cucumbers hanging out

As a means of sustaining the farm financially, produce will also be sold. This is not to say the everyday consumer will be able to stop by and pick up a few tomatoes or head of lettuce. Rather, they have partnered with Beau Schmidt of Beau’s Restaurants who will serve their produce in his dining establishments. Since the farm can produce a consistent crop year round without concern for the dreadful Ohio winter, restaurateurs don’t have as much to worry about crop failure and seasonal variability. If the power goes out, that’s another story.

The facility itself is impressive and futuristic. In place of the sun are full spectrum LED and high-pressure sodium light fixtures. Salad greens grow out of long, white tubes that nutrients solutions and water flow through. Tomatoes and Cucumbers sit in bigger bucket systems where their larger roots will have plenty of space to grow. Dials and digits cover gadgets and devices that control every facet of the room’s environment from the ground up. Not one clod of soil is present.

“We’ve gone from a red kettle to a salad bowl,” said Colonel Dan Lance of the Salvation Army as he reflected on the project and it’s completion. And in doing so they are delivering hands on education and experiences to the communities and people they engage.

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For More Information on Fresh Face Farm and

The Salvation Army Check Out: facebook.com/AkronSalvationArmy

 

For More Information on Beau’s Restaurants Check Out:

beausrestaurants.com

 

Dave Daly has worked in the world of urban agriculture for a good long while now.

 

 

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