Aquaponic Gardener Profile – Kelly Orvick

By: JD Sawyer


Q: Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.

A: Lodi, CA

By day, I work as an Instructional Technology Coach for LUSD. But by summer, evenings and weekends, I am an aquaponic enthusiast/farmer! I am a proud mother of three amazing children; one who is nearing completion of her radiology program, one Junior in HS, and one in sixth grade. When my children do not have me busy running their schedules, I keep myself busy learning all I can about aquaponics and aquaponic systems. In my down time, I love wine tasting in beautiful country and learning to play the bass guitar! It is my hope one day to retire from the school district, but continue on in my home based aquaponics business helping spread the importance of growing your own food.

Q: How did you get interested in aquaponics?

A: I was raised a farmers daughter, so grew up eating home grown vegetables. I lived most of my life in the country and always had the room to grow my vegetables the “traditional” way. Approximately four years ago, I moved into town. With that, I no longer had the space to grow traditionally the way I was accustomed to. I really missed eating homegrown organic vegetables. I was buying them from farmers markets, etc. every chance I had, but it wasn’t the same. Then I stumbled on an aquaponic website one day searching while searching for homegrown methods of growing vegetables in small spaces. I was hooked. After some research, I built my first system. That was a little over three years ago. Now I have a variety of systems. A couple of towers, some gutters, a couple of IBC, a cinder block with pond liner system, and one built from rubber made tubs.

Q: How are you currently working with aquaponics? Home setup, community greenhouse, etc.

A: Currently, I am maintaining the above mentioned systems and also have built a couple in my community. I love the idea of giving people the ability to grow their own organic vegetables. I have just started branching out into the community and doing demos at small farmers markets and street fairs. I have ideas about building a curriculum, I can implement in my district.

Q: Tell us about your system. Geek out a bit and tell us all the specs.

A: I love all of my systems, but the next system I am going to build is my favorite. Having tried a few different types, I am ready for square beds, straight lines, and simplified plumbing. I am a fan of the bell syphon and have great luck with them. I will be putting together four 4×4’x12’s in line, which will gravity feed back to a 250 gal. tank. From the tank, I will pump to a 50 gal. swirl filter, and then out to the grow beds.

Q: What plants and fish have you had the best luck with? And the worst?

A: Tilapia are the hardiest fish I know and my favorite. Sounds weird, but I swear they are smart. Sadly, the county where I live in CA does not allow tilapia, so I am making the switch to “legal” fish. I have a couple of koi and will probably switch over to koi in all my tanks eventually. Koi can withstand our winters without much heating of the tanks and that will save me a ton of money during the winter.

Q: What do you like most about aquaponics? Least?

A: I love that I can walk out into my backyard and pick my meal. I also love when my friends come over and I can share what I grow with them… it’s always exciting too when they say, “ok take me on a tour… I want to see what you have going on out there now!” Least favorite is when I wake up to mornings like today… turned the corner of my 500 gallon lined tank that was empty and all my fish gasping for oxygen. It was a scramble to repair and transfer them to another tank before I lost them… unbelievably I lost zero fish!

Q: What do you think the biggest misconception about aquaponics is?

A: That it is too complicated. I hear that all the time. My goal is to keep it as simple as I can when I share so people understand it really isn’t all that difficult.

Q: What are your future aquaponics goals?

A: I hope to share my knowledge and my enthusiasm about aquaponics and in the process grow families of aquapons in my community. There are very few of us in the Central Valley of CA. I also have a website that is in the baby stages and I want to grow that as well to reach more than just my own community.

Q: What do your friends say when you show them your system for the first time?

A: They are always amazed. I have had an incredibly positive response.

Q: What is your next big gear purchase going to be? What about your next small one?

A: As I stated above, my next build will be a more linear system that has simplified lines and plumbing. I do not have any raft beds and for a small project, I hope to add a raft to one of my systems.

Q: What’s the best recipe you’ve ever had/made, based around something you grew in your system?

A: Oh gosh… too many to name just one. I love making my own pesto for sure! Right now my favorite is blended smoothies. I am taking spinach, kale, and cucumbers and adding them to purchased pineapple and other items to blend up a delicious and healthy drink each day. The best part is that my son, who is NOT fan of vegetables drinks them like they are milkshakes. Recently, I canned several jars of jalapeno, carrot, and onion. Those are delicious as well. Coming soon, I will be canning my own Spaghetti sauce… tomatoes are loaded, but green.

Want to tell the community about your Aquaponic setup?  Click here!

Want to have your aquaponics system or farm featured?!

Just visit this page and fill out the form!