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32 LEARNING curve nfrom pg 31


training in hydroponics with more than three decades of hands-on organic experience in his consulting work for Dow. He is now installing a more eco-friendly channel


system to replace the styrofoam rafts for growing, and hemp plugs are replacing Rockwool for starting seedlings. The microgreens themselves are grown on fully biodegradable hemp matts. Organic seeds, fertilizers and disease and pest management practices are used as much as possible. In fact, small plastic-covered jars containing apple cider vinegar is a simple and common pest control method. Wesle says adding an organic fertilizer to the mix caused issues that required some trial and error to resolve but has resulted in better colour and texture. Wesle’s experience tells him there will be a few


more issues to deal with before things are running smoothly. “We currently operate at about 15% capacity but hope to have all kinks ironed out over the next six to 12 months,” he says. Wesle has agreed to stay on until his farm’s


growing season starts in April, and he’ll likely continue as a part-time consultant as required. Dow sold her initial crops at $1 per bag to people


registered through Westgate’s website. Customers provided valuable feedback. Trials are also helping determine the best crops


to grow for the bags of microgreens and mixed lettuce she’s selling. Dow says she will have no problem selling the


produce, with interest already coming from food delivery services in Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops and even Calgary. “They like the produce because it’s year-round,


it’s organic, it’s fresh; we cut it, you get it,” she notes. Dow is mulling other options for commercial sales locally but is leaning toward keeping it unique to the Salmon Arm market.


When it reaches its full capacity, Living Leaf Growers expects to have 28,000 plugs of produce growing at its 2,500 square foot facility at a public market in Salmon Arm. JACKIE PEARASE PHOTO


“Right now I’m on the fence about whether I sell


to Askew’s and DeMille’s and everybody,” she says mentioning a popular local grocer and farm market. The hydroponic produce is grown with few inputs but doesn’t qualify for organic certification, which is limited to soil-based production systems.


Dow would like to see organic certification criteria amended to accommodate hydroponics. “I think you’ll see in the next year or two a big change with how hydroponics is accepted,” she says. “It’s a battle coming down and we’d definitely jump on the train on that one.”


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