On a cold and windy day last January in central Kentucky, Ed and Lora Ginter welcomed a group of CNG farmers on a tour of Bluegrass Aquaponics. The chilly wind left no doubt that it was winter outside, but entering the greenhouse felt like stepping inside a tropical oasis. Amidst the vibrant lettuces, big tanks of swimming tilapia, and ripening tomatoes, Ed and Lora showed the group the intricacies of their operation. Rarely had the Ginters received such a knowledgeable and curious group. The CNG farmers, having convened in Lexington for the annual Southern SAWG conference, posed detailed questions about how the Ginters managed fertility and pests. Everyone was impressed by the size and quality of the produce being harvested.
Located on the farm where Ed grew up, their greenhouse aquaponic system is a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. The water from the fish tanks circulates to fertilize vegetables, and in turn, the vegetables filter the water for the fish. This 21st century farming system allows Ed and Lora to provide a full range of fresh vegetables and herbs for their local community all year-round. Following the tour, and a quick mock CNG inspection, Ed and Lora decided to pursue CNG aquaponic certification. We’re proud to claim them as members – our first CNG Aquaponic operation in the south!
Bluegrass Aquaponics is a labor of love for Ed and Lora. While Lora and Ed have both long had a passion for gardening, they didn’t learn about aquaponics until 2011 while on a mission trip to Haiti. The mission had been granted a large aquaponic system, but no one knew how to build or manage it. Lora and Ed committed the time to get training from Nelson & Pade and returned to Haiti for 6 months to get the system up and running before transitioning it to local management. They loved aquaponics so much they knew they wanted to start their own business back home in central Kentucky.
Lora loves that the greenhouse aquaponic system means no mud, never getting rained out, and no weeds or bugs (most of the time). But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy. Ed works full time off farm, and he and Lora tag team all the tasks required to keep the business running smoothly from production to delivery. Marketing remains a challenge, but with Lora’s persistence, plus word of mouth from their devoted customers, demand for their produce is growing steadily.
When you ask what their favorite thing about Bluegrass Aquaponics is, you get a few different answers. Ed likes the independence of running your own business. Lora relishes the produce – “who doesn’t love a fresh, ripe, locally-grown tomato in the middle of the winter?!” And they both enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes from feeding local families, and hearing customers gush about their produce.
Ed and Lora’s impact in their community extends well beyond their customers. Ed served as a pilot in the Air Force, so Bluegrass Aquaponics proudly participates in the Homegrown By Heroes program that promotes veteran-owned farm and food businesses. Ed and Lora also work closely with Kentucky State University to teach workshops, lead school tours, and host student researchers. And Bluegrass Aquaponics was even featured popular TV show Kentucky Afield hosted by Tim Farmer - check it out!
Bluegrass Aquaponics weaves together the farm’s agricultural heritage, Ed and Lora’s commitment to growing food naturally without chemicals, and their mission to provide healthy food for their community year-round. We are proud to count them as members!
We look forward to seeing Ed and Lora again in 2017 at the Southern SAWG Annual Conference in Lexington. Will you be there? Drop us a note via the Contact Us button and we’ll let you know about any CNG gatherings we’re planning. And of course be sure to stop by the CNG booth at the Trade Show.