March is National Nutrition Month! So Let’s Talk About How the USDA is providing Nutrition to our population.


March Newsletter Cover 2

March is our National Nutrition Month; but, unfortunately, most of us don’t know it. We have to confess that until we started writing this Blog post, we didn’t realize it either; and we’re in the nutritious food business.

Because it’s National Nutrition Month, we’re once again post-poning our Series on “Obesity in America” to celebrate and inform our readers about all of the Food related Programs that we are running in the U.S. including who these programs serve and the costs of those services.

But before we go there, we want to point out our original cartoons by our Marketing Director, Grace Sylke who is loving her new Pixton.com software. If you want to see them bigger or share them, go to our Pinterest Page.

Here is one of the Best National Programs we’ve got going; and it needs your Support.

FARM to SCHOOL

farm-to-school-logo

“Farm to School is a program in the United States through which schools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, and beans on their menus. Schools also incorporate nutrition-based curriculum and provide students with experiential learning opportunities such as farm visits, gardening, and recycling programs. As a result of Farm to School, students have access to fresh, local foods, and farmers have access to new markets through school sales. Farmers are also able to participate in programs designed to educate kids about local food and agriculture.”
(Quote taken from Wikipedia)

This program started in 1996, and was fueled by “the desire to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity”. (Wikipedia) The plan was based on a triple win situation; and it was spearheaded with pilot projects in California through the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School System and The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, which was created by the famous food activist, Alice Waters. (To learn more about Alice Waters, go to our Food Revolution Part 2 Series in our May 2014 Newsletter featuring the Revolutionaries)

This program is now almost 20 years old, and it’s still going strong. Below, are some statistics that describe how effective this program was in the 2011-2012 school year based on a Census taken in 2013. A second Census is being conducted this year.

FNS Main Story Infographic

In 2014, the USDA issued approximately $5 million in Farm to School Grants to help school districts across the country further develop their farm to school programming.

Support Farm to School

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed. It’s a Federal Statute that was signed into law by President Obama as part of the reauthorization of funding for child nutrition in the original Child Nutrition Act passed in 1966. The Farm to School Program is a Grant Program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. To learn more about the original act enacted in 1966, click the above link. During the signing of the original act, then president, Johnson, remarked that “good food is essential to good learning.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act funds child nutrition programs and free lunch programs in schools for 5 years and continues through 2015. In addition, the bill sets new nutrition standards for schools, and allocates $4.5 billion for their implementation. More on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act below.

The Farm to School Program is allocated a mere $5 million of the nearly $36 billion (that’s a “B” for billion) dollar child nutrition five year funding budget. They have partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to establish stronger Farm to School priorities in the 2015 reauthorization of the original Child Nutrition Act, and they are pushing for an additional $100 million in funding over the next decade.

If there were ever a program that deserves more funding, it’s this one because it’s so inclusive of both children, farmers and local communities. There are two bills representing this program. Click on the Bills to follow their progress. Both Bills were referred to Committee on February 25th, 2015.

S. 569 and H.R. 1061

Please communicate with your Senators and Congressional Representative to help get them passed.

Here’s another incredible National Program that warrants your support.

FEEDING AMERICA

Feeding America Logo

We first learned about FEEDING AMERICA when we went to Tucson, AZ in late 2011 to install three of our Aquaponics USA Food Forever Growing Systems in three elementary schools there.

We did an Interview with the Lead on that project, Zotero Citilacoatl who was the Youth Farm Project Manager for the Community Food Resource Center of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. We were new in the field of food and agriculture, so we had no idea that the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank was being supported by FEEDING AMERICA until we did that interview.

In many ways, we are very beholden to FEEDING AMERICA because it was that organization that funded the Grant that purchased those first three Food Forever School Growing Systems that we sold. We are now selling most of our Growing Systems to schools all over the U.S. To learn more about our School Growing Systems, go to our webpage that describes our School Packages and Pricing structure.

FEEDNG AMERICA leads our nation in the fight against hunger through it’s nationwide network of Food Banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other community-based agencies.

Food Bank

FEEDING AMERICA has had a long history and a different name. It all started with John van Hengel.

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John lived from February 21,1923 until October 5, 2005; and after he took a vow of poverty as a devout Roman Catholic and started working at Immaculate Heart Church in Phoenix, Arizona in the late 60’s, he began to solicit unwanted food for the poor from grocery stores, local gardens and nearby produce farms. These efforts led to the creation of the first Food Bank in the world, which was located in Phoenix, Arizona and called the St. Mary’s Food Bank in 1967. “In addition he worked for many years as a consultant to U.S. cities starting their own food banks. He also traveled the world teaching other countries how to set up food banks which are now in operation throughout Europe and in many other countries, including Israel, Australia and Mexico.” (Quote taken from the Find A Gravewebsite)

In 1975, St. Mary’s was given a federal grant to assist in developing Food Banks across the nation. This organization became America’s Second Harvest with Mr. van Hengel in charge. America’s Second Harvest merged with Foodchain, another food distribution charity.

Then in May of 2007, the American Idol TV Program named America’s Second Harvest as the recipient of the Idol Gives Back Charity Program and the company was put on the map. They changed their name to FEEDING AMERICA in 2008. Since then, several high profile people and companies have adopted FEEDING AMERICA including Bob Dylan in 2009 with an announcement by Columbia Records that all U.S. royalties from his Christmas in the Heart album would go to FEEDING AMERICA in perpetuity.

Today, Tony Robbins, the well known motivational speaker, is supporting a 100 Million Meals Challenge, and he’s inviting us all to help match his gift of 50 million meals to FEEDING AMERICA so, together, we can provide 100 million meals for the 49 million Americans who struggle with hunger. When combined with Tony’s gift, every $1 you give helps secure and distribute 20 meals through the FEEDING AMERICA network of food banks.

If you’re being called to contribute, just go to FEEDING AMERICA and join Tony’s 100 Million Meals Challenge.

What’s happening with Nutrition in the USDA?

USDA

Our USDA is supporting a number of beneficial Nutritional Programs beyond the Farm to School Program. Some of these programs are serviced based on age and ethnicity. Others like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as Food Stamps, service a broad swath of our nation’s population. So let’s start with one of the children’s programs:

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)

Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program

“The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) was authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The pilot program began in 4 states and 1 Indian Tribal Organization (Zuni, New Mexico).

The purpose of the pilot was to determine the best practices for increasing fruit (both fresh and dried) and fresh vegetable consumption in schools.

As a result of the Program’s popularity, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (more on WIC below) added 4 more states (Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, Washington), 10 schools in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, and 8 schools in Arizona’s Tribal Council (3 schools in the Gila River Pima Community and 5 schools in the Tohono O’odham Community).

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006, Public Law 109-97, appropriated money to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to include: Utah, Wisconsin, New Mexico (25 schools), Texas, Connecticut, and Idaho. The Farm Bill amended the National School Lunch Act by eliminating section 18(f) and adding section 19, the FFVP and provided significant changes from the previous program.

The Program is now Nation-wide in selected schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.” (Quote taken from USDA webpage on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program )

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

Food Distribution to Indian Rez

This is an idillic representation of an Indian Reservation with ceremonial teepees set up to honor the food. There are 310 Native American Reservations in the U.S. and typically, many of America’s poorest people reside in them. When we speak about 3rd World and Developing Countries, we are also speaking about these Sovereign Nations, which constitute 3rd World Countries within our borders. Thank goodness, there’s a program designed to pick up those Native Americans who do not have access to the larger, all inclusive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly known as (SNAP).

“Low-income American Indian and non-Indian households that reside on a reservation and households living in approved areas near a reservation or in Oklahoma that contain at least one person who is a member of a Federally-recognized tribe, are eligible to participate in FDPIR.

Households are certified based on income standards set by the Federal government and must be recertified at least every 12 months. Elderly and disabled households may be certified for up to 24 months. Households may not participate in FDPIR and SNAP in the same month.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the USDA, administers FDPIR at the Federal level. The program is administered locally by either Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) or an agency of a State government. Currently, there are approximately 276 tribes receiving benefits under FDPIR through 100 ITOs and 5 State agencies.” (Quote taken from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, Nutrition Program Fact Sheet)

The Meals on Wheels Program

Meals On Wheels #2

Without the Meals On Wheels Program many of our Senior Citizens would starve. “Meals on Wheels operates in virtually every community in America through a network of more than 5,000 independently-run local programs. While the diversity of each program’s services and operations may vary based on the needs and resources of their communities, they are all committed to supporting their senior neighbors to live healthier and more nourished lives in their own homes.

Meals On Wheels galvanizes the resources of local community organizations, businesses, donors, sponsors and more than two million volunteers – bolstered by supplemental funding from the Older Americans Act – into a national safety net for our seniors. Meals on Wheels ensures that seniors have access to adequate nutrition even when family support, mobility and resources are lacking.

For seniors who are mobile and attending Senior Centers and other gathering places, Meals On Wheels also delivers to many of those community gathering places.

This amazing service for our Seniors not only drops off daily nutritious meals, it offers seniors the opportunity to visit with a friendly, caring person who is also doing a safety check to mitigate against the risks of medical emergencies, falls and other accidents.

Meals On Wheels is partially supported by the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965, which was the first federal level initiative aimed at providing comprehensive services for older adults and was passed as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiative.” (Quote taken from Meals On Wheels America)

Within the last two years, there has been a movement in Congress spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders to Reauthorize the OAA. Two Bills were created. Senate Bill S.1562: Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 was not enacted in 2014 and the House of Representatives Bill, H.R. 4122, by the same name was referred to Committee on Feb. 28, 2014. This was the last action on the Bill.

Let’s show our support for Reauthorizing these two Bills and getting them passed in 2015 as our elder Boomers remain the largest segment of our population and will need more Meals On Wheels.

To follow these Bills, go to GovTrack.us.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

Senior Farmers' Mkt. Nutrition Program

This is an interesting USDA Program focused on Seniors. It’s the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

“The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) awards grants to States, U.S. Territories, and federally recognized Indian tribal governments to provide low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods (fruits, vegetables, honey, and fresh-cut herbs) at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.

The SFMNP is administered by State agencies such as the State Department of Agriculture or the Agency on Aging.

The purposes of the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program are to:

(1) Provide resources in the form of fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs from farmers’ markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs to low-income seniors,
(2) Increase the domestic consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding or aiding in the expansion of domestic farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs, and
(3) Develop or aid in the development of new and additional farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs.” (Quote from USDA Overview of the Program)

Like Farm to School, this program benefits both the recipient of the vouchers as well as the sellers of the fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs. It’s another win/win program that supports everyone involved.

USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

snap

No line up of USDA Food Assistance Programs would be complete without listing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program now known as SNAP and formerly known as Food Stamps.

“SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. FNS also works with State partners and the retail community to improve program administration and ensure program integrity.” (Quote from the USDA website on SNAP )

As of the last count, which was October 2014, there were 46,674,364 Americans on SNAP, which constitutes 14.6 percent of the 318,857,056 people in our popu-lation. Households on food stamps got an average benefit of $261.44 during the month, and total benefits for the month cost taxpayers nearly $6 billion. That’s $6 billion per month, which would be $72 billion per year. (Statistics from an on-line publicly supported news website, CNS NEWS )

“Close to 70 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

After unemployment insurance, SNAP is the most responsive federal program providing additional assistance during economic downturns. It also is an important nutritional support for low-wage working families, low-income seniors, and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes.

The federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits and splits the cost of administering the program with the states, which operate the program.” (Quote taken from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Being the best known and the largest food assistance program out there, often places SNAP in the crossfires of criticism; and many believe it is being over used and under managed allowing for abuse and fraud. Nevertheless, this program has been and continues to be a god-send to many Americans in need of food assistance.

All About the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act

This Act was passed in 2010 as part of the reauthorization of funding for child nutrition (see the original Child Nutrition Act). It’s focal point is improving child nutrition; and it serves to set policy for the USDA’s core child nutrition programs including the:

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
School Breakfast Program (SBP)
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
Farm to School Grant Program
(Quote from USDA website School Meals, Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act)

Except for the WIC Program and the Farm to School Grant Program, we are not going into detail regarding each of these programs. For more information, click on the above Links to see what each of these programs entails.

In March of 2010, “the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that implementing this bill would have discretionary costs of $35.9 billion over the 2011-2015 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.” Most of these costs are for the reauthorization of WIC, which received an appropriation of $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2010 and would, therefore, need at the very least 5 times that for the designated 5 year period of 2011-2015 period. (Quote taken from the Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate dated March 24, 2010)

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act has nothing to do with the SNAP Program and is a separate expenditure that is focused on children except in the case of Adult Care Facilities where Adults are being serviced.

That means that between the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and the SNAP Program, the USDA is spending nearly $80 billion annually to provide nutrition for people in need.

The Women Infants and Children Program (WIC)

Women Infants and Children

“In 1974, WIC was established as a permanent program to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants and children up to the age of 5 who are at nutritional risk.

This mission is carried out by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education (including breastfeeding promotion and support), and referrals to health and other social services.

WIC benefits are not limited only to food. Participants have access to a number of resources, including health screening, nutrition and breastfeeding counseling, immunization screening and referral, substance abuse referral and more.” (Quote taken from USDA website page on the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program)

WIC recipients become eligible for this program based on their annual income and must fall at or below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines as of the revised guidelines effective from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.(Information gleaned from the USDA website page on the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program)

There was a rather shocking group of statistics put out by the USDA in 2010 as part of their State-Level Estimates of Infants and Pre-School-Age Children at or Below 185 Percent of Poverty. These stats compare 2009 to 2010 and show that almost every state had rising numbers of children in this category. It appears that the recession that was triggered by the pop of the housing bubble in 2008 among other things has plunged more households at or below 185 percent of poverty.

“WIC is not an entitlement program as Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate in the program. WIC is a Federal Grant Program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funds each year for the program. Based on the 2010 figure, WIC annual cost is around $7 billion; and it is the most costly program in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Program Group.

WIC is:
1. Administered at the Federal level by FNS
2. Administered by 90 WIC state agencies, through approximately 47,000 authorized retailers.
3. WIC operates through 1,900 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites, in 50 State health departments, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia, and five territories (Northern Mariana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands)”
(Quote taken from USDA website page Wic at a Glance)

Currently, WIC serves a staggering 53% of all infants born in the United States. This means that over half of the children born in the U.S. need Nutritional support by the government; and this is another example of how fragile our economy is post the 2008 crash.

In Conclusion:

Dinosaur with Hard Hat

In conclusion, we have to say that as we wrote this month’s Newsletter, we really learned a lot. We had no idea about how many different Nutrition Programs are being funded and how much those programs cost.

We’ve seen comparisons regarding the percentage Americans spend on food out of their annual incomes compared to other countries; and those figures show that we spend so much less.

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But now we’re wondering if these statistics are taking into account how much the U.S. Government, via it’s tax payers, is spending on Nutrition.

Maybe if we took the nearly $80 billion that is being spent annually by the USDA and divided it up among all of the taxpayers and then did the comparison again, we’d get a higher percentage number spent on Food in the U.S. We’re pretty sure those billions aren’t reflected in the above graph.

On the other hand, we spent $799.8 billion on our Defense Budget in fiscal year 2014. There’s another mind blowing number for you. We’re actually spending almost 10 times more on Defense than we’re spending on Food for the needy.

Bottom line, we have to feed our people in need; and we need to defend all of us so relax and enjoy this last day of Nutrition Month.

Thank You for following our Blog. We hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as we enjoyed doing the research and bringing you this information.

P.S. Remember to tell your friends and family who want to learn more about our Food System or who are interested in Aquaponics to check out our Blog. If you’d like to see this Blog Post as a monthly Newsletter, go to our March 2015 Newsletter, Number 15.

Sustainably,

Aquaponics USA/World

There’s been a coup in the Greenhouse!


Things change fast in the Greenhouse. We published a beautiful Greenhouse photo (below) in our June 20th Blog post that featured the two Queens of the Greenhouse. They were huge Zucchini plants that were sitting in the back. Greenhouse Full ShotIn that picture, the middle beds had Okra and Corn that were little spindles of growth we hoped would survive. The original Zucchini Queens have been replaced by new Sovereigns, the Corn. It’s unbelievable how quickly and beautifully they are growing. And this corn is among the small number of corn stalks in all of the US that isn’t GMO! And believe it or not, this all happened in 18 Days.

New Queens in the Greenhouse!

New Queens in the Greenhouse!

Now you will notice that we have one rather challenging problem in our herculean efforts to grow corn in our Greenhouse. It’s obvious that at this incredible rate of growth, it won’t be long before our corn stalks reach the ceiling. We’re going to try to bend them forward and are taking the tomato plants that are standing in front of them out of the bed and planting them outside in order to accommodate the corn. We also have a ceiling window we can open to let two of the stalks grow out of the ceiling.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Queen Corn and their lady in waiting, Greek Basil.

Next to the corn is a lovely little maid in waiting to the new Queens. It’s a Greek Basil plant. It seems that Basils of many countries love aquaponics systems. Here’s another shot of the Queen Corn, the Basil and the tomato plants.

Queen Corn, Greek Basil, Tomatoes and Okra.

Queen Corn, Greek Basil, Tomatoes and Okra.

Behind the tomato plants in another bed is Okra. We’ve never planted Okra before but it also seems to thrive in an aquaponics system. Apparently, Okra is a flowering plant that puts out edible green seed pods often called lady’s fingers or gumbo. So far, we haven’t seen any pods growing; but we sure do have the leaves.

Our first grow out of Okra.

Our first grow out of Okra.

In this last photo, you see the Queen Corn and the Okra together in one bed. The corn is spread across the back of two of our 11 sq. ft. Grow Beds. About midway in the shot at the top, you can see the roof window we’ll be opening so a couple of stalks can grow out of it.

Queen Corn and our first grow out of Okra.

Queen Corn and our first grow out of Okra.

So that’s the story of the recent Greenhouse coup. We’re learning gardening in this Food Forever™ Growing System as neither myself, Grace, or my partner, Oliver, had ever gardened before we built this aquaponics system and this Greenhouse. What’s important for you to realize if you don’t already know, we live in the California desert where the temperatures were 105 degrees F last week and there is no real soil, just sand. This is a climate-contolled system that is growing so much better than our outside raised bed plants with soil. This system is a great teacher, which explains why schools are buying our Food Forever™ Growing Systems; and we have them in several edible schoolrooms around the U.S.

Thanks for visiting. We’ll keep you posted on how the Queen Corn does as she runs into her “glass ceiling” (polycarbonate actually).

Our Aquaponics USA Fish and Veggie Road Show!


Our Fish & Veggie Road ShowWe just did our first Fish & Veggie Road Show and what an experience that was. Getting our act together to go on the road was a way bigger job than we ever imagined it would be; but the result was impressive. We think we may be the first and only Aquaponics business that is doing shows and now we know why. It’s a lot of hard work. As a multi-media artist, I (Grace) did Arts & Craft Shows for many years selling a hand-crafted jewelry line, photography and even a line of resort wear. So I know what it’s like doing road shows; but I’ve never done a road show that was this challenging. Our set up took us one full day and a night; and our tear down took a full eight hours. EGAD! And “Yes”, we need to make it easier. But the experience was great. We introduced Aquaponics USA’s Food Forever™ Growing Systems to lots of amazed and curious Californians. Below are three photos of the 3 vehicles it took to get our set up to the Los Angeles Design Center. If we keep doing Shows, we’re going to need a big Truck because packing and unpacking these three vehicles was very time consuming.

It’s amazing how many people in California still haven’t even heard the word, Aquaponics; but our aim is to change that; and we started changing that this past weekend, October 12-14, 2012, at the first annual KNOWPHEST in Los Angeles. The KNOWPHEST was billed as the place to go to learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know; and Aquaponics USA fit perfectly into that unusual theme because most of the people who saw our Exhibit had never even heard the word, “Aquaponics”, before they entered our space. The KNOWPHEST featured an eclectic group of Exhibitors and Lecturers including the famous artist couple Alex Grey and Allyson Grey. Alex showed his mural-sized original works from the famed Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. These paintings were awe inspiring as I had only seen them in photos. You may recognize the image below entitled “Praying” as it has been featured in lots of venues.

And we prayed a lot as we traveled up the Interstate 10 to Los Angeles from the High Desert above Palm Springs. Mostly we were praying that our live fish and plants would make the trip and stay that way, alive, as this was our first experience of moving fish and plants in vehicles.

Among the various Exhibitors at the KNOWPHEST who were selling everything from  jewelry to portable saunas, Aquaponics USA was a real phenomenon; and we were thanked and congratulated over and over for being there and introducing the people of Los Angeles to the concept of sustainable food growing systems that can be set up in a backyard, garage, basement or school room. And, of course the stars of our Show were the fish. Below is a photo of our baby Tilapia happily swimming around in their fish tank that is part of our new Plug In & Grow Indoor System, the FFGS-C5. In the second photo below, you see a complete shot of this Compact Indoor Food Forever™ Growing System that comes with a Grow Light, Grow Bed, Fish Tank with heater and miniature automatic fish feeder. The third photo in this series is our Modular FFGS-20  Food Forever™ Growing System that housed our adult Tilapia.

It’s one thing to preach to the choir, which is the same as staying home and waiting for people to become aware of the importance of Aquaponics in whatever way that happens and then Googling the word and discovering us on Page 1. It’s an entirely different thing to go out to Shows and awaken people to the existence of Aquaponics and then educate them on the spot about how important it is to their food security and health. That’s what’s happening in these Shows; and that’s what makes it so exciting. So many people expressed their gratitude about being awakened to this life and environment sustaining way to grow food. They were really excited to discover Aquaponics and we were excited to have an Exhibit that could serve in this way. It was such a win/win experience that it made all the hard work worth while. Below are a series of shots of our Exhibit at the KNOWPHEST starting with our “Welcome” Sign. The second photo is of our new Certification Trademark. We’re creating a way to Certify vegetables and fish that are grown aquaponically; and we’re calling it “Aquaganic”.

We even had a Literature Table with five informative double-sided flyers besides our Brochure. One of the flyers entitled “Why Aquaponics? Why Now? has a full back page explanation of what Aquaponics is and why it’s so important in the 21st Century. On the small table behind the literature table is our flat-screen TV where we continuously ran DVD’s of our YouTube Videos.

This Show wanted to attract the Los Angeles Night Scene so we were open quite late at night . Here is a shot of our Exhibit at night.

We had to make a 2 1/2 hour drive to get to the KNOWPHEST (while keeping our fish well aerated using an inverter and in-tank aerators), which were in the back of the Honda Pilot.

Before going on to our next Show, we want to extend a special “Thank You” to Caleb Bartlett and Allen Sovory II, promoters of the KNOWPHEST, for inviting and encouraging us to do this Show. Without your encouragement and the KNOWPHEST venue, we never would have put this Exhibit together and discovered how fun and exciting it is to be the clarion callers for Aquaponics USA out there on the streets and in the Convention Halls of America. Thank You, guys, for putting on a great Show and being so accommodating and helpful.

Our next adventure to Mesa, AZ will be a little more challenging as we’ll be traveling for over six hours while keeping our fish and our plants alive. This Show is happening at the Mesa, AZ Convention Center on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 & 27. It’s called the Self Reliance Expo and is a first year Show in that location and one of a series being promoted under this title in various locations across the Nation. If you’re in Arizona, tell your friends to come out and see a phenomenon whose time has come–an Aquaponics USA Road Show.

See you at the Self Reliance Expo in Mesa, AZ and thank you for following our blog and visiting our virtual first Road Show. We’re so pleased to be able to share this adventure with you.

It’s a Complete Indoor System ready to PLUG-IN & GROW!


PLUG-IN & GROW Indoor Mini Food Forever™ Aquaponics Growing SystemWe’re so excited about this newly designed Mini Indoor Plug-In & Grow Food Forever™ Aquaponics System, the FFGS-M5, that we can’t wait to announce it even though we’re not quite ready to sell it yet. What are we waiting for? We want to do a test run on it and actually see beautiful heads of butter lettuce and other leafy greens growing in it before we put it on the market even though we know this new system is going to work like a charm because we’ve already tested the Fluorescent Grow Light we’re using.FFGS-M5 fluorescent Here’s a picture of that T5 Fluorescent growing out lettuce in our Growroom.T5 Fluorescent Growing Lettuce in our Growroom

Of course, we’ve already tested our syphon; but our standard syphon in this new system acts like a Rapid Cycle Syphon which means it siphons about every 7 minutes instead of every 15 minutes. A Rapid-Cycle Grow Bed allows for a greater amount of dissolved oxygen to be present in the grow bed without the need of extra aerators and air pumps. This added dissolved oxygen helps with processing and conversion that creates plant nutrients. Here’s a picture of the DO (Dissolved Oxygen) count in this new Mini System’s Fish Tank.DO Meter Reading the level of Dissolved Oxygen in the Mini FFGS-M5 Fish Tank

We’ve also created a whole new growing system we are calling the Hydro-Foam Hybrid Growing System; and you’re seeing it here for the first time the day after it debuted on our website last night.FFGS-M5 Hydrofoam No one else is using this ultra efficient way to grow leafy greens. Hydro-Foam marries a Hydroton flood and drain system with a Raft system in the same Grow Bed. Traditional Raft Systems float polystyrene on top of a continuously flooded grow bed, often with plants in net pots placed in the raft. A traditional Hydroton deep media grow bed runs a flood and drain cycle through the media in which the plants are planted. The Hydro-Foam Hybrid floats a polystyrene board designed with optimally spaced holes and filled with net pots on top of the Hydroton, which is at precisely the right height to insure the water wets the roots of your plants. Hydro-Foam reduces evaporation of the water in the bed; and once your plants start growing leaves, the Hydro-Foam protects them from exposure to wicked up water that causes bottom leaves to become moldy. Here is a picture of a Hydro-Foam Hybrid Grow Bed growing lettuce in our Growroom Lab right now. We are using LED’s now in our Growroom Lab, which is why the color of the leaves appears to be purple. Hydro-Foam Hybrid Growing System growing LettuceAbsolutely everything is included in this PLUG-IN & GROW Mini Food Forever™ Aquaponics System. The Deep-Media, EZ Reach, Rapid Cycle Hybrid Grow Bed features over 5 sq. ft. of growing area and comes with it’s EZ-Clean Bell Syphon, a highly efficient Water-Delivery System, a Hydro-Foam Hybrid Growing System with Hydroton and all Bulkhead Fittings and Valves. The 30 Gallon Rectangular Translucent Covered Fish Tank is made of food grade polyethylene and is 22″ deep. It comes with pre-installed Bulkheads, a Submersible Pump and Plumbing, an Air Pump and Aerator, a Jet Back Aeration Sprayer, a digitally controlled 200 watt Heater and a Fluorescent Fish Tank Light. The included T5 Fluorescent Grow Light comes with a a Timer that can also run your Fluorescent Fish Tank Light. The Grow Bed sits above the Fish Tank and both sit on a reinforced multi-level Stand with a handy top self. The Accessories Kit that is also included has an API Fresh Water Test Kit, Starter Bacteria, Water Cleaning Solution, a Fish Net, 90 Days of Tech Support and an Assembly and System Start-up Manual.

We’ve added a Light Reflecting Shroud to the top of the system to keep the important growing light in while keeping it out of your eyes. This is a Complete Indoor Mini System, which has been designed for the interior of a home or schoolroom. The black and white neutral colors of the FFGS-M5 have been chosen to blend with other home appliances like stoves and refrigerators. To make the FFGS-M5 even more home decor friendly, we are even offering 13 different custom colors and designs for the trim around the Light Reflecting Shroud. You are seeing one of those 13 pattern and color choices below. This one is #1.FFGS-M5 Shroud Trim

If you’ve been thinking about trying Aquaponics; this is the perfect starter system with which to do it. There is absolutely no guesswork involved. When we make our Buy Button live on our website page, this system will be fully tested and ready to go to work growing lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro and other leafy green vegetables right in your kitchen, dining room or “edible schoolroom”.

To get in on our Introductory Sale in which we will be offering the first six FFGS-M5 Systems for less than the listed retail price of $1495,   just email us at:

urbanfarmer@aquaponicsusa.com

These six FFGS-M5 Systems will be using the T5 Fluorescent Grow Lights that we used in our Growroom Lab for about three months. Start growing your own healthy, organic leafy greens right in your own home or schoolroom with the FFGS-M5; and thank you for following our Aquaponics USA Blog.

First in a Series called: It’s An “Edible Schoolroom”


It’s happening. Schoolrooms right along with Schoolyards are becoming edible. Here are some heart-warming chronological pictures of what’s happening with Aquaponics (called AquaBioPonics) at Davis Bilingual Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona where Aquaponics USA built, installed and tested one of it’s FFGS-40 Food Forever™ Growing Systems over the Christmas break.

When we last posted about this installation, there were no Grow Lights, no Fish and no Vegetables. Look what’s happening now.Davis Bilingual Elementary School students gather around Aquaponics USA Grow Beds

The above photo shows children gathered around Grow Beds #3 & #4 to see plants growing in the Hydroton. The Hydroton is the Grow Bed media that takes the place of dirt. It’s made from fired clay, and is produced by a German company named Okotau. It was originally designed for Hydroponics (hence the name Hydroton); but works great in Aquaponics systems. This photo also shows Florescent Grow Lights hanging over the Grow Beds. These lights are crucial to the growth of the plants. No light–no plant growth.

This next series of pictures shows the arrival of the fish that are also crucial to an Aquaponics System because the fish create the fish waste that is turned into valuable nutrients for the plants through a process known as the Nitrogen Cycle, which the Davis Bilingual Elementary school students are also learning about.Davis Bilingual Elementary School place their gold fish into their Aquaponics USA Food Forever™ Growing Systems

Right now Davis is using gold fish in their Aquaponics systems. The above picture shows the gold fish going into the system.Davis Bilingual Elementary students watch their new gold fish swim in their 320 gallon Aquaponics USA tank.

The above picture shows students watching their gold fish swim around in their 320 gallon fish tank.Blackboard shows the Nitrogen Cycle of an Aquaponics System

The teaching of Aquaponics begins with a renowned instructor, Dr. D’Silva, Consultant and Professor. Dr. D’Silva is CEO of Moura Enterprises and a worldwide reference in Integrated Sustainable, AquaBioPonics and AquafuelPonics Systems and Humanitarian programs. Right now he is being a Humanitarian and helping the Davis Elementary School Teaching Staff and students learn all about the Nitrogen Cycle, which runs these systems and how to cycle their Food Forever™ Aquaponics Growing Systems, which he calls “AquaBioPonics”. Since Davis Elementary is a Bilingual school, you’ll notice that some of the words on the board are in Spanish. Below, Dr. D’Silva in the white shirt stands next to one of the Davis Bilingual Staff members.Dr. D'Silva stands next to a Davis Bilingual School Staff Member

As the learning continues, Dr. D’Silva instructs members of the Davis Bilingual Elementary School staff on how to use their Water Quality Kit that came with their Food Forever™ Aquaponics Growing System. Below, two of the staff members hold up tubes containing yellow-colored water indicating they have measured the Ammonia level in the system. The card with the colored rectangles on it is used to determine what that Ammonia level is. If the Ammonia goes up too high in an Aquaponics System, the system becomes toxic to both the plants and the fish. The third staff member standing next to Dr. D’Silva is the Librarian for Davis Bilingual Elementary, Cheryl Schrader-Gerken. She graciously welcomed us into her Library when we installed this system over Christmas and has taken on this amazing “Edible Schoolroom” Project (in her case it’s an Edible Library) with much joy and enthusiasm.

Davis Bilingual Elementary Staff learn how to measure Water Quality

This final photo below shows an up-close look at how the Water Quality Kit that is included with a Food Forever™ Growing System works to help you keep your water quality at safe, healthy levels. The three tubes all contain the same water taken from the system. The fist tube tells you what your Ammonia levels are. The second tube tells you what your Nitrite levels are and the third tube tells you what your Nitrate levels are. To get lots of detailed information about Water Quality go to our Water Page and read all about it. You can also see all the fun and excitement that the students at Davis Bilingual Elementary School are having by visiting their facebook page at Gardening & AquaBioPonics at Davis Elementary.Testing the Water Quality using the Kit that's included with a Food Forever™ Growing System

We’ll be doing more posts on these “Edible Schoolrooms” in the near future as we return to see what’s happening at the other two schools where our Food Forever™ Growing Systems were installed. Those schools include Manzo Elementary and Drachman Montessori Elementary. So stay tuned.

And be sure to check out the two videos we recently posted to YouTube on our Aquaponics USA TV Channel where we show you the full installation of this very system at the Davis Bilingual Elementary School. It is Part 1 of a four-part series that shows these installations in the three Tucson Elementary Schools. Parts 1 & 2 are posted and Parts 3 & 4 are coming.

Until next time, GET GROWING!

Aquaponics USA Installs a Food Forever™ Growing System at Davis Bilingual Elementary School


Davis Bilingual Elementary School

Aquaponics USA installs an FFGS-40-plus into the Library of the Davis Bilingual Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona.

The Davis Bilingual Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona was the first site of three Tucson Elementary schools to receive Food Forever™ Growing Systems during the whirlwind installation project conducted by Aquaponics USA and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

Now you can view this fascinating installation in a Video recently posted on the Aquaponics USA You Tube Channel. Just click on the Blogroll to your right where the Aquaponics USA TV Channel link is located. The Davis Installation is called “Aquaponics USA Travels to Tucson, Arizona – Part 1 of 4”. You can also watch this installation right here on our Vodpod widget. It’s the second Video from the top.

During the break between Christmas of 2011 and New Years of 2012, Aquaponics USA took a two-man crew with them to Tucson, Arizona where the crew efficiently built, installed and tested three Food Forever™ Growing Systems in three different elementary schools. What was challenging about these installations is that the crew had no idea what the set up was going to look like until they walked into the rooms allocated to contain the aquaponics systems. Then the crew essentially built the systems on site to perfectly fit the allocated space; and, of course, after building the system, it had to be tested. It was an ambitious project that took one day for each of the sites given some of the system construction was done prior to landing in Tucson.

Davis Bilingual Elementary School opted to house their Food Forever™ Growing System in the Library. They tore up a section of carpet, moved book cases, painted the cement floor; and Wah Lah!, the library becomes an aquaponic garden ready to grow out food fish and veggies. This system will serve as a teaching lab for teachers and students in many subjects as aquaponics lends itself to teaching biology, science, physics, language arts and culinary arts.

This project has been created by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, which is serving as a model for how Food Banks in other communities can run their programs. What’s different about this Community Food Bank is it has an arm that is all about food production not just government food distribution. If you find yourself in Southern Arizona and want to see an aquaponics Food Forever™ Growing System in action, make a request to visit the Davis Bilingual School Library. I’m sure they’d welcome you. In the meantime, watch the installation over at the Aquaponics USA TV Channel under our Blogroll or click on our Vodpod widget right here. The Davis Installation is the second video from the top.

All three schools received the exact same system, which is an FFGS-40 plus, which means they got four grow beds with a 320 gallon fish tank, plus an extra brooding and breeding tank that is 120 gallons. Watching all three videos showing these school installations is quite informative as each installation was shot showing different aspects of that installation. Putting all three of them together in your mind will give you a real clear concept of how these systems are built and how they work to grow-out food fish and veggies. (The Video of the third installation and the Interview of the lead on the project from the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank will not be up for a couple of weeks so watch for them.)

Until then have a happy and healthy 2012, which has moved into March faster than we can say “Aquaponics”.

AQUAPONICS USA’s FOOD FOREVER™ Growing Systems go into 3 TUCSON SCHOOLS


The Aquaponics USA Food Forever™ Growing System at Manzo Elementary School

Manzo Elementary School is in the Inner City of Tucson Arizona; and now it’s one of three Tucson schools that are the envy of  the Tucson School District because it has a state of the art Aquaponics USA Food Forever™ Growing System sitting smack dab in the middle of one of its all-purpose rooms, which also houses band equipment and music classes.

Now, you can see a video of this entire installation at Manzo Elementary on our You Tube Aquaponics USA TV Channel. Just go to our Blogroll on the right and click on our Aquaponics USA TV Channel or connect through our Vodpod widget right here. It’s called “Aquaponics USA Travels to Tucson, Arizona – Part 2 of 4 and is on the top of the Vodpod widget below.

The Tilapia that will be swimming around in the 320 gallon fish tank (it sits in the open space between the four Grow Beds) will love hearing the music that the students play in this room as they eat their Aquaponics USA FAST GROWTH Tilapia Fish food and fertilize the plants that will soon be growing under the indoor fluorescent grow lights that will soon be installed over this Food Forever™ Growing System.

The screen you see over the fish tank has been added by the Manzo Aquaponics Team to keep the fish in and the children out of their new and very exciting food growing system. In the main photo above, all the red stuff in the Grow Beds is called Hydroton and was originally created for Hydroponic food growers; and it works just as well for aquaponics because it is pH neutral and has lots of porous space for beneficial bacteria to grow on it. You can learn all about Hydroton from our website by going to our “Products” page and then scrolling down to the “Hydroton” page.

Manzo Elementary School has a wonderful feel and is the epitome of what every elementary school should be these days because it’s all about being and teaching sustainability. There are water-catch cisterns everywhere to catch and save rain water as Tucson is a desert environment.

These cisterns have provided enough rain water to water the schools outdoor gardens this winter.

There’s a courtyard in the middle of a rectangle of classrooms that has a hen house with six chickens that run free during the day  when they’re not laying their one egg a day contribution to food sustainability. 

The above photo shows the chickens in the compost pile. Teaching the children how to compost is another wonderful way to instill the importance of sustainable living.

The addition of their Food Forever™ Growing System is going to add a lot to this program as the students will learn how to raise food fish along with veggies in a cross-linked system that recirculates the water and raises vegetables year round. So many subjects can be taught through a hands on aquaponics system including biology, math, science, language and culinary arts.

We’ll be sharing posts and pictures of what’s happening with this Food Forever™ Growing System at Manzo Elementary School as it progresses through its stages of getting lights, fish and plants so stay tuned. In the meantime, visit the Manzo Elementary School Reconciliation Ecology Facebook page here:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reconciliation-Ecology-at-Manzo-Elementary/125141114170146

All three schools received the exact same system, which is an FFGS-40 plus, which means they got four grow beds with a 320 gallon fish tank, plus an extra brooding and breeding tank that is 120 gallons. Watching all three videos showing these school installations is quite informative as each installation was shot showing different aspects of that installation. Putting all three of them together in your mind will give you a real clear concept of how these systems are built and how they work to grow-out food fish and veggies. (The Video of the third installation and the Interview of the lead on the project from the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank will not be up for a couple of weeks).

Until then, enjoy the first two instructional installation videos compliments of Aquaponics USA and Enjoy.