Grant Award: $6,000
After raising broiler chickens for 13 years, Paula and Dale are ending their contract with poultry companies and converting their chicken houses to aquaponics greenhouses, growing tilapia and a variety of vegetables.
In an aquoponics system, vegetables and tilapia grow in symbiosis as the fish provide fertilizer through their waste for the hydroponically grown vegetables.
Paula and Dale are using existing equipment from the poultry barn in their new venture, such as heaters, gas lines, water lines, regulators, filter systems, fans, cool cells and a generator. They are also converting feed silos into fish tanks and cutting metal feed lines into strips to use for metal supports in media beds, which are the rock-filled containers where vegetables grow.
Paula and Dale have replaced the tin roof of the poultry barn with plastic. The greenhouse is divided into four separate areas, and a computer probe hangs in each section controlling heat, water, and static pressure, creating individual climates for growing a variety of vegetables. That way they can have one climate for lettuce, another for tomatoes, and another for strawberries, for instance.
“We realize this first house will involve a lot of trial and error, and it may take several growing seasons to learn this new business before we are operating as efficiently as possible,” Paula said. In the meantime, 25 acres of soybeans help pay for expenses for the new venture.
JB Farms is named after Dale’s father, Jim Boles, who bought the 34 acres more than 50 years ago and took great care of the land, Paula said. “Our life-long hope is to make this farm something that my father-in-law would have been proud of,” she said. “From our back door you can see the farmland, the ponds and a picturesque view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We want to preserve and protect the land and our environment but we also want to use it wisely and efficiently to provide an income.”