Growing Opportunities is a hydroponic farm in Alcalde, NM owned by Kim and Steve Martin, who provide delicious hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers to the Co+op. Steve and Kim enjoy providing quality beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes and English cucumbers for the community. Their love of agriculture and learning is evident in their products and practices, including their hydroponic greenhouse systems.
Steve grew up around farming and knew early on that he loved working with plants. He held a variety of jobs before taking up farming, including working at UNM-LA as a maintenance supervisor. His desire to practice hydroponic agriculture brought him back to the sunny climate of New Mexico in 1999 when he started Growing Opportunities.
Kim began farming in 2002 at Growing Opportunities when Steve was still using a single greenhouse. As she transitioned out of her previous job and fully into farming, her presence enabled the expansion to two greenhouses. She soon became the face of Growing Opportunities at farmer’s markets and the Co+op.
Their two greenhouses are covered by inflated plastic roofing, which holds up to hail and lasts up to five years before the UV protection diminishes. They maintain the internal environment using fans, evaporative cooling, CO2 generation, and natural gas for heat in the winter. Steve set up an automated system to control all aspects of the greenhouse environment, which gives him better control of daily temperature fluctuations. “The automated system is nice, but it still requires daily monitoring and adjustments,” Steve explains as he checks the system for the third time that day.
In addition to daily environmental care, hydroponic plants require daily care in the form of pruning and adjusting the hanging strings. Each plant is attached to a string hung from the ceiling. Once the plants reach the scaffolding, they are progressively moved laterally to accommodate further growth. Bees – who remain inside the greenhouse – pollinate the flowers in their temperate domain. A single tomato plant takes three months to mature and will produce for seven to eight months. When it is time to turn over the greenhouse, the retired plants are composted on their property – food for the old growth cottonwoods.
Hydroponic agriculture allows the Martins to grow all year, which means local tomatoes at the Co+op in the winter. In addition, Steve says his system “uses one tenth the water of traditional flood irrigation while producing ten times the yield for the same footprint.” The vast reduction in water consumption along with the extended growing season makes this method appealing for desert agriculture.
Currently, the Martins are building two more greenhouses to keep up with the growing demand at the Co+op. which are scheduled to be seeded by March 1st. “We immensely enjoy providing beneficial food for local community,” Kim said while describing progress on their expansion. The Co+op is also proud to provide food grown by local farmers like Kim and Steve, who care about the community and the food they grow.
~Sandra West, Outreach Coordinator