Something New is in the Air
by Lee Harrison
February 3, 2021
Our farm was initially started as just a small family farm. My brother, Tim, came up with the name “Gardens On Air. " We wanted to grow uniquely in 2010 and find ways we could grow year-round for people with cancer or health issues. Our farms motive, initially, was to grow produce without the use of any chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, or anything that could be harmful to people that would be eating our products, which would mainly be cancer patients and sick people. It was interesting to find that many large corporations were bringing in 90% of all of their produce and products from outside of the US. They may say “USDA Organic”, however, in looking deeper we found that these “organic” fields were usually below fields where all the things we didn’t want in our produce and definitely didn’t want to put in our bodies.
We decided to grow aeroponically and vertically. In 2010 there were not many people who were even aware of aeroponics, especially vertically. So, we found a company in Indiantown, Florida, Airgrown Systems, and we bought a system. We became Alabama’s very first vertical aeroponic farm in July 2010. We began our process of gaining our “USDA organic certification” in August 2010. We achieved our USDA organic certification in 2011. We were the very first commercial vertical aeroponic farm that was USDA organic certified in the United States.
Our farm was just something we did on our own time. It has always been a family farm with very strong support from LeeAnn, Lexi and Nic. My children, Lexi and Nic, have been working on our farm since they were 2 years old and probably know more about vertical aeroponics, vertical hydroponics, deep water culture, and controlled environment agriculture than any other 13-year-old in the country. They absolutely love it.
We started this farm to help my father who has Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and some other cancers. Our day to day includes me getting at the farm around 4 a.m. before I go to my other full-time job at SUIT, LLC., where I am a Fleet Safety Director. I go in and turn on all lights, check all the plants, water levels, pH levels, and fertilizer parts per million (ppm). At the end of my workday, I go back and do the same thing except I turn the lights off. The biggest learning curve was what customers want and how to properly grow items and have it ready for them in a timely manner. Timing is everything. Our favorite product to grow is different types of lettuce because it’s so versatile and most everyone eats lettuce in one fashion or another. The best seller for a long time was our hydroponic Bibb lettuce, but now it’s the green crisp lettuce, which is good for sandwiches and wraps. We found that juicing wheatgrass helped people with cancer in between their treatments with keeping energy and nutrients. I know that some people do not buy into the juicing aspect of what we do, but we've seen firsthand the way it helps and seems to give not only cancer patients but people in general more energy. We try different types of lettuces and let our friends and neighbors try new items to see what we think would do well. We really try to involve as many people as we can in testing new items to get the best product out.
We have been blessed to be part of the “Energy Tour” at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL when we were first beginning our path. We have met so many awesome people throughout the State of Alabama and are greatly appreciative of them. John McMillan, Don Wambles, Andrea Carter, Dr. Teresa Orok-Merriweather at Alabama A&M, Dr. Barrett Vaughn at Tuskegee University, The AWESOME women at the Farm Food Collaborative – Natalie Bishnoi & Carey Martin who put up with my shenanigans, especially Marshall County School Nutrition Manager Casey Partain who gave me a chance and took time to let me try our produce in their school systems. Beth Spratt has been very essential to our progress as well.
Forestwood Produce in Birmingham, Randy & Lisa, gave me an opportunity by letting me put our produce at the yearly State of Alabama Nutritional Directors meeting and introduced us to most Alabama school system administrators. There are so many people that I can’t even mention because I can’t remember. We have had so much support for our farm.
Herbs, vegetables, produce, wheatgrass, barley grass, sprouts, and microgreens grown using vertical aeroponic towers, hydroponic, NFT, and aquaponic growing techniques. We will never use herbicides, pesticides, or chemicals. We will use only OMRI-certified agents. We will NEVER grow with seeds that are genetically modified... WE ARE LOCALLY GROWN & LOCALLY OWNED. NO SEASONAL WORRIES. We at Gardens On Air - A Local Farm, Inc., want to thank the Johnson family & staff for allowing us the privilege of selling our produce right here in our community. "Locally owned & locally grown" means something. It means that you will know exactly who we are when you buy our produce. Our kids go to school with your kids and we are part of this great community.
We also want to thank "Local Joe's Trading Post" for their continued support of our family farm.
I can honestly say that Jody & Karen and their great staff are wonderful Christian people, and we love them greatly. They have supported us from the very beginning of this adventure. You can have a taste of our produce at Local Joes in Rainbow City, where it is used on his amazing food.
We strive to provide an ultra-modern place of CEA Indoor farming, growing, and learning for sustainable and renewable practices that everyone can use to grow healthy and delicious clean grown produce and vegetables without having to use harmful herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals.
We want to provide everyone living in our beautiful state of Alabama, surrounding states, and ultimately the whole country and beyond with the cleanest, freshest, tastiest, healthiest, grown-clean Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) hydroponic lettuces, micro-herbs, microgreens, and micro-salads available anywhere.
It will be our continued belief that reinvestment, education, and acceptance in all communities will serve our company best. We want to be a beacon of hope to those in need and provide to them as well.
We are actively looking for Alabama investors who see the benefit of Alabama having a farm such as ours that will grow and sell to our own people, instead of having all our produce brought in out of State.
Lee, LeeAnn, Lexi & Nic Harrison