Readers were told they could look forward to reading about another facet of the business in spring 2021. That story now appears.
Family greenhouse growing nutritional food
Projects continue to bloom at the Ben and Kathy Puck farm as the couple and their children continue to share ideas and work together to bring them to fruition.
Most recently the family has constructed a large greenhouse on the farm. It’s part of the several facets of Red Barn Solutions.
“One of our big passions, in addition to making things, is regenerative agriculture,” said Nancy. “What we mean by regenerative is regenerating the soil. We’re really focusing on soil health so that you can grow nutrient-dense crops. This model greenhouse lets us farm in the soil all the time; not pots. Here we can build our soil health, and we can focus on trying to grow nutrient-dense food. Dad and Dan are working on that in the fields. They are putting in cover crops, rotationally grazing cattle.”
“We’re just getting started. Everything will be literally new in 60 days, so we just have to wait for the cycles of the plant life to take its turn; annuals, bi-annuals and perennials,” said Ben. “The end goal is to have fresher food that is more nutrient-dense.”
He defined nutrient density saying: “If you get a carrot from a hydroponic farm it doesn’t have hardly any carotene in it. It doesn’t have as many vitamins or minerals. There is nothing supporting that carrot except genetics, and genetics does not make important minerals that our bodies need,” he explained. “So, we grow them in nutrient-dense soils because the nematodes and earthworms will bring nutrients to that plant, and we can improve their environment and they are going to improve the quality of our food. You can’t get one without the other.”
They plan to produce food for the whole family and hope they can sell some excess.
Right now, they are in the very early stages of the project.
“If we can prove its possible to grow a more nutrient-dense food here in the greenhouse, and we can also grow it out in the fields, maybe we can find a niche market of consumers interested in our nutritionally-dense and locally sourced food. “If not, we’ve got the open market to sell to,” he said. “We’re just trying to live a little longer and eat better.”
Nancy added, “We’re taking control of our food; of what we eat and how nutrient-dense it is. All of the studies are saying that it is very difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables because we would have to eat twice as much as my grandparents ate to get the same nutrition. Our food isn’t what is needs to be and all the studies say that.”
A couple years ago the family listened to microbiologists talk about soil and it changed how they look at everything. They said if they can improve their soil, they can improve the nutrient-density of their food.
“Our food is out of food,” said Ben. “The soil is alive. In a spoonful of healthy soil, you have a billion microorganisms, and all of those things have a purpose. They are there for our benefit and they cycle things that are too small for us to see. When they are working properly all things show that the plant can be extremely healthy and when we eat that plant, we can be extremely healthy too. So, if we can all those little guys in the soil on our side, we can get have very healthy food.”
New plants sprouting
The family already has many beds with green plants sprouting from the soil. They include ginger, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, onions, radishes, watermelon and potatoes, just to name a few.
They plan to plant numerous tropical trees: oranges, limes, lemons, bananas, dragon fruit, avocadoes, and clementine’s.
“This is Ben and Kathy’s greenhouse. Red Barn built it for them. We all are going to farm it,” said Nancy. “This was just something we all realized we need to do.”
Inside the greenhouse it is a warm 88 degrees gathering sunlight from the south. Danny and Ben constructed the facility with a geothermal system.
The large airflow geothermal system allows the temperature to remain at approximately 50 degrees through the winter. A tile line wraps the building, and another goes to the top of a hill. They use the ground temperature to warm the air coming into in the greenhouse.
Danny constructed galvanized retaining walls on each side of the structure with a lower section down the center for tropical trees.
“For years we have been applying liquid manure to the ground, and I see nothing but good things happen to soil when you take care of it. This is just taking it to the next step,” said Ben. “And that’s the idea here… Let’s add to what Mother Nature has to offer and see if we can grow better food, because the food that we’re getting now isn’t grown here. It is all shipped in. Why?”
“What’s really in our hearts right now is producing some really good food,” said Nancy. “We are all spending our time the way we want to spend it.”
She added, “I think there is a lot of passion around here to grow our own food but people think they can’t afford to do that. I would love to lead a conversation about that. It’s not hard and it doesn’t take a lot of time, or money or anything else. It brings so much joy and so many rewards.”