I’m on a Frontier Airlines flight from Tampa, FL to Denver, exhausted but exhilarated. Yesterday we concluded the first two sessions of the Green Acres Aquaponic Farming Complete Course. All the organization, marketing, registrations, presentation writing, travel, and a thousand other tasks are done!
We have been planning this since just after the Aquaponics Association conference in Orlando last September. We reserved the community center facility and engaged Murray Hallam as the third member of our training team. By November we had the website up and started registering people, and by the beginning of April we were fully booked – three weeks in advance of the first session. But it wasn’t completely ‘real’ until the first person showed up at the community center. After that moment, the week blurred with activity. Every morning I would get up at 5:00 a.m. to catch up on some email, have some coffee and a Cliff Bar, and get ready for the day. At 7:30 a.m. I would meet Murray in the hotel lobby and we would drive over to the community center to unlock the door, start the coffee, and fire up the overhead projector. By 8:00 a.m. the room was full and we started presenting: first a couple hours of Aquaponics and Green Acre Organics (GAO) system specific info, followed by two hours of business presentations. We then broke for the catered lunch, and after that, divided up into the hands-on portion of the day. Each course participant was assigned a group and they participated as a group either in Murray’s system build, Gina and Tonya’s Farm Basics course, or mine. Mine always started with an hour long discussion at the community center about bugs. Then we headed out to the farm to do a variety of hands-on “chores” such as water testing and adjusting, tomato staking and pruning, fish handling and inspecting for bugs. We usually finished up at the farm by 4:30 p.m. Murray and I would then return to the hotel to shower and check email and then raced back out again at 6:00 p.m. to meet the rest of the team for dinner. By the end of the week we definitely felt like we were in the movie Groundhog Day!
Those were just the mechanics of the aquaponic farming course, however. The real magic was the people and the fervor they oozed for aquaponics and the small farm revolution. We met a father and his three sons from Washington who were all looking to exit corporate life and start a business together. We met a man who had worked in large scale agriculture all his career, including applying pesticides professionally, so he knew well the damage we are doing to the earth and to farm workers and he wanted to start again in farming “the way it should be done”. We met several people who had attended other commercial Aquaponics courses but came to us because they felt that they needed the complete treatment that we were offering.
We felt a deep obligation to these wonderful people who were looking to alter the path of their future and had put their trust in us to help them do just that. Gina created a 2″ thick binder of information about the farm – nothing was held back. We answered every question that was asked, and it seems to have paid off. The evaluations at the end of each session were heartwarming. 100% of the 120 course participants would recommend the course! The ‘Rate this Course Overall’ score across all participants was 9.7 on a ten point scale. The comments included …
- “Thank you so much for putting together the Aquaponics “Dream Team” for last week’s training. Every question I had written down during the week to ask on the last day was answered. Every “fuzzy” area I had when I started the class was brought into sharp focus.”
- “I think you guys have the best class going in the country at this time. Not only do you have to grow fish and veggies but you also have to sell yourself in so many ways and I got that from the class.”
- “Just wanted to say Thank You for the Great aquaponics course (April 21-24)! It was really very well organized, informative, intellectually stimulating and most of all FUN!!! I feel very blessed to have participated in your first hybrid aquaponics course.”
We can safely say that we were successful at launching a new class of Aquaponics farming revolutionaries into our struggling agricultural landscape.
Now the planning begins for the next course. It will probably be in Denver, probably in late October or early November.
Are you ready to join the Farm Revolution?