COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The first harvest of vegetables at the Mid-Ohio Farm at NBC4 happened Wednesday morning. NBC4 Today anchors Monica Day and Matt Barnes helped grab some of the first leafy greens to witness the big occasion.
The MOF@NBC4 started taking shape in May by marking off the territory on a two-acre plot behind the television station. Bo McMahon, the farmer, walked off and marked the lot where the grow towers would be erected.
The grow towers can grow up to 20 times the amount of food by going vertical as opposed to traditional horizontal farming. Each tower contains 20 spots to plant seedlings and enough room for them to mature. The process really comes down to agriculture technology and different types of hydroponics to make the job simple.
“…anybody can put the towers in their backyard or on their patio.” -Farm Director Bo McMahon.
“You don’t have to have a degree in soil science, you don’t have to understand the nutrient bases that are in your soil,” said Mid-Ohio Food Collective’s Farm Director Bo McMahon. “You’re removing the science from it and simplifying it so that anybody can put the towers in their backyard or on their patio where they can get some sunlight and water to it. It’s all pretty much done for you.”
The irrigation system contains fertilizer and drips from the top and trickles down through the tower. At the base of each tower, rooted veggies like beets, radishes, and carrots are growing. The whole plan is to maximize the potential harvest and extend the growing season starting in early spring and ending in late fall.
The first harvest included different varieties of leafy greens like lettuce. The produce was distributed to neighbors along the Riverview Road neighborhood. This area includes nearly 2,500 people who are either foreign exchange students at Ohio State University, immigrants, or recently naturalized citizens. Many of them do not have the transportation to travel to the nearest grocery stores.
“We’re going to take this food and we’re going to donate it to families that are right here in our neighborhood and this is just the first step because ya know these are just phase-one,” said NBC4 General Manager and Vice President Ken Freedman. “Next year this thing is going to be producing this whole property is going to be filled with food production.”
A group of neighbors from Riverview Drive showed up to witness the first harvest and each took home some of the lettuce. Some of the volunteered during the summer to help set the farm up.
In July, Fabiha Tahsin, 10, helped fill the towers with the soil mixture. She understood they were helping a farm grow produce. She had no idea it was going to be enough to help feed people around the city.
“It was so much fun to plant it. I didn’t expect it to be a lot of veggies,” said Tahsin. “Other people are going to come in here, it was pretty impressive.”
The MOF@NBC4 plans to add a community garden with raised beds for neighbors to grow produce from their homelands since the veggies are difficult to find here in the states.
The original plan at the farm was to grow about 100,000 pounds of food annually, and now the goal exceeds that by another 200,000 pounds.
“To realize that we have this incredible asset that was unused, just an unused resource…and we’re turning it into the production of hundreds of thousands of pounds of food a year,” said Freedman.