Nothing Is Harvested On This St. Thomas Farm Until You Order It

Nothing Is Harvested On This St. Thomas Farm Until You Order It

Nothing Is Harvested On This St. Thomas Farm Until You Order It

By Jennifer Bieman, St. Thomas Times-Journal

Saturday, January 14, 2017 | 10:02:01 EST AM

Where some saw an empty warehouse space, Ruth and Harvey Easton saw a fresh new business idea.

The couple has built an indoor hydroponic farm from the ground up in a 6,000 sq. ft. Burwell Rd. building. St. Thomas' Urban Farm is getting ready for its grand opening on Feb. 1.

“We can control the environment in here. There's no pests, there's no excessive humidity... It's a very contained system, we can monitor it,” said Ruth Easton, co-owner of The Urban Farm.

The former medical lab technician and cytologist lost her job in March 2015 and, not wanting to retire just yet, decided to embark on a new career path.

“We've always gardened, we have a garden in our backyard,” said Easton. “I knew something about hydroponics, but not a lot, so I went online.”

Easton and her husband Harvey researched hydroponic technology and decided to build a business together. The husband and wife team got to work on the ambitious indoor farm in August 2016 and began growing their first plants shortly after. The pair, who hail from Port Stanley, have been spending 10 hours each day tending to the plants, sprouting seedlings and planning for an ambitious expansion.

“Eventually... I'll be able to grow peppers, beans, tomatoes, strawberries. I'm planning on growing those off-season,” said Easton. “Hopefully this time next year I'll be selling strawberries.”

The plants are grown on towering vertical racks, not horizontally like most hydroponic farms, with coloured LED lights and no soil. Water is circulated automatically through the system with special pumps and computers to measure nutrient and fertilizer levels. It takes about six weeks for most of Easton's crops to go from seeds to harvest-ready plants.

Though The Urban Farm boasts some high-tech infrastructure, building the business didn't take millions of dollars in capital costs. They built their own racks for $3,500 and are running the lights through the evening hours to avoid peak electricity costs. The couple is trying to keep their expenses manageable, their carbon footprint low and their business growing.

Right now, the Eastons have dozens of different plants on the go, from bok choy to kale, spinach, several varieties of leaf lettuce and herbs. Though they haven't begun selling their harvest yet, The Urban Farm's produce will soon be hitting the market. Easton said there's been some early interest from local restaurants, bars and caterers. The public will also be able to pick up produce of their own at the Burwell St. location.

“They can come in, say 'I want green loose leaf lettuce' for example. There will be no coolers out there... Someone will come to the rack, cut it off, bag it, weigh it and sell it,” said Easton. “It's called live sales. Nothing is harvested until you order it.”

The Eastons are hosting an official grand opening for The Urban Farm on Wednesday Feb. 1 beginning at 9 a.m. They will be giving tours of their facility and helping the public learn a little more about hydroponic farming.

The Urban Farm Grand Opening

When: Wednesday Feb. 1 starting at 9 a.m.

Where: 150 Burwell Rd. St. Thomas

More Information: 519- 914-016

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