Local farm uses hydroponics to grow produce

This lettuce may look like any other you might find at the grocery store, but its far from it.

"Those over there were transplanted yesterday these we'll probably transplant next week and this has another week or so before its ready to harvest."

Andy Holloway, a sixth generation farmer and owner of Baywater Farms in Salisbury, Maryland is using an alternative way to farm his lettuce.

It's called hydroponics, growing plants using nutrient-based water above ground, without soil.

"Inside of there is all of the roots and what happens is this little water is the nutrient solution and it pumps through this and it's gravity fed and goes down there, hit's that big return line then something called a dose tronic then gives the plants exactly what they need," explains Holloway.

This way they can harvest their lettuce year round no matter the season, matter the weather.

"It doesn't matter what the outside conditions are. We can heat it, we can cool it and it always gets fresh water which is pretty cool."

Holloway started using this new way of farming in 2011 hoping to find some stability year round and to help with the unpredictable weather that comes with living on the eastern shore.

"We founded the company growing sod back in 2003 and then of course the housing market crisis hit during the recession and we were tied into that. When we came out the other side of the recession, we knew we needed to diversify so we didn't have all our eggs in one basket."
"Within three months we had sold out and we had to expand and doubled the size," says Holloway.

Even though it may not look that big, there's 24 acres worth of conventional crops inside this ½ acre greenhouse and over 20 variations of lettuce.

"It was a reaction to try to diversify our farm and stay viable for multiple generations."

And with the success of the hydroponic lettuce, in 2014 Holloway ventured outside and now grows over 75 crops and over 20 acres of heirloom tomatoes.

Crops that have been a part of the Holloway family for generations.

"When my great grandfather was farming that's what he grew. There was no such thing as genetically modified plants so these are the kind of things he grew."
Holloway adds, "He used to grow for himself to can and pack and take to the market. We're doing the same thing, we're just shipping further away."

You can find Baywater Farms at local farmers markets and they're even expanding to chain grocery stores like Whole Foods and Safeway.

Categories: Local News, Maryland