The first Downtown Farmers’ Market opens for the season this Saturday in the historic Court District. One family farm has been working on a way to bring a new food to the table, and it even helps grow their gardens.
You’ll find row upon row upon row of Kevin and Liza Hassevoort’s hard work when you walk through their greenhouse in Leon. For the first Farmers’ Market, Liza Hassevoort says they’ll have beautiful potted flowers, along with lettuce, asparagus, cucumbers, and possibly snow peas.
But, you might be surprised at what the couple uses to grow their gardens naturally: fish. Liza Hassevoort says, “It’s a good fish, it’s a mild fish. It’s healthy for you. And, to be able to find it local and trace it’s origins.”
The Hassevoorts are raising tilapia in tanks on their farm in Leon. They’ll sell the fish at the Downtown Farmers’ Market later in the season. Meanwhile, they’re using the waste water from the fish to fertilize their food and flowers. Mrs. Hassevoort says, “Our fertilizer base is all natural with the fish, which adds incredible flavor.”
The farmers say the water from the fish goes through a clarifier to remove the solid waste. Then, a mineralization tank turns the nitrites into nitrates. Kevin Hassevoort says, “Nitrates are what’s need to make plants grow.”
In addition to watering the plants with the nutrient-rich liquid, they’re also actually growing the lettuce in it. Showing the system, Kevin Hassevoort says, “In your refrigerator, the lettuce you buy is still alive.”
It’s called Aquaponics, and the couple says the practice helps the living lettuce stay fresher longer. He says you can enjoy it for ten or so days in your refrigerator. They say about a dozen facilities like this exist in the country. Liza Hassevoort says, “The bottom line is, with the world economy the way it is, we need to find alternative ways to get fresh quality product.”
The Hassevoorts say they’ll start selling the fish at the market this July. At first they’ll sell whole fish on ice for $10 to $12. But, they say they’re looking at selling fillets down the road.