By Tawnya Sawyer
The Hartford, CT Aquaponic Association conference included a Community aquaponics track for people to share their projects, stories and ideas on how aquaponics can create a positive outcome for communities, and also challenges that must be addressed to move forward. Having coordinated, presented, and attended the Community conference tracks since 2011, I continue to be impressed and inspired with the quality of the information.
Community aquaponics is all about getting highly nutritious food directly to the consumer without the hundreds to thousands of “food miles” or distance from farm to the table. Obviously this has become a popular concept in urban gardening and farming. But aquaponics can do this even better since an aquaponic system can be setup in a parking lot, repurposed in an old building, shed, barn, garage or greenhouse.
Community aquaponics is generally considered growing food for the purpose of serving a specific location or group of people. This may be for profit or non-profit oriented. Community aquaponics often has an open-door policy, meaning they encourage participation from volunteers, interns, schools, and the general public. They may have access to different funding methods that wouldn’t normally be available to someone building aquaponics for themselves or as a business. Some community aquaponics visions have been very altruistic, seeking to help others by all means, but those that have been successful have recognized the importance of operating like a business and ensuring they can be financially viable.
In the next three segments, we’ll discuss in more detail the top three themes that conference participants identified in community aquaponics: community involvement, location considerations, and financial challenges.
Tawnya Sawyer is the Director of Colorado Aquaponics and a Board Member of the Aquaponics Association