Ozark All Seasons Farm intends to provide Northwest Arkansas chefs and home consumers with year-round production of fresh, nutrient-dense, pesticide-free lettuce, salad greens, and microgreens at a level of quality and reliability not available previously. With one eye on quality and the other on the environment, our low carbon footprint operation marks a new era in the local production of high-yielding vegetables that minimizes the use of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals, maximizes water and fertilizer use efficiency, increases freshness and nutrition, and bolsters the local economy.
Our farm was conceived and developed to be a small part of a world-wide revolution in agricultural production systems. Reliance on the fossil fuel and chemical-dependent systems of large-scale agriculture that produce food that contains abundant energy (calories) but little nutritional value has suppressed small, local farms producing nutrient-dense foods that are more expensive to eat. Producing close to the consumer is sometimes difficult though, as land is expensive and of variable quality, water equally so, and winter and summer climate extremes of almost any region dictate indoor growing if local products are to be available year-round. But heating and cooling greenhouses with fossil fuels have become prohibitively expensive in most regions, and even those that are able to pull it off are still dependent on oil prices for economic viability.
Scientists and growers around the world are working to develop green-energy greenhouses that would allow structures with low carbon footprints to be placed close to or in urban centers, eliminating much of the fossil fuel costs associated with transportation and cooling, and providing a fresher, more nutritious product to consumers. Fruits and vegetables produced in greenhouses near urban centers must be highly productive, however, and most soil-based systems cannot produce the yields needed to sustain such production centers. Enter the latest hydroponic systems, which can produce greenhouse yields dozens of times higher than soil systems, while maintaining nutrition, appearance, and taste of the final product.
Our new, state-of-the-art greenhouse is a prototype of this new breed of greenhouses — geothermally cooled in the summer with geothermal, solar, or wood boiler backup heating in the winter. It is the only one of its kind in the US (for more details and pictures of the greenhouse, go to the FAQs section of our website). The latest sustainable hydroponic techniques are also utilized —new varieties, nursery tables, use of beneficial insects and bacteria for pest control, etc. The nutrient solution is a combination of organic and inorganic components (so we cannot be certified organic) that promotes quick, healthy growth with maximum taste and nutrient density. We continue to experiment with replacing the inorganic components with organic ones when possible (for more details and pictures of the hydroponic operation, go to the FAQs section of our website).
The Ozark All Seasons Farm was founded in 2013 by Val and Jana Eylands. Nestled in the rolling green hills of the southern Ozark Mountains, the 240-acre farm is comprised of 200 acres of oak and hickory woods, 20 acres of pasture, a fruit orchard, a small lake, several ponds, and to date, one greenhouse. The farm is unique, to say the least, as is described below. A scientist and farmer, Dr. Val Eylands left the corporate agriculture world early in his career and spent two decades overseas in developing nations as a consulting agronomist for USAID, World Bank, and other international organizations. For four years in the late 1980s he led a University of Arkansas agricultural project in the highland gorilla region of Rwanda, and his trips back to the Arkansas campus each year eventually culminated in his great love of the area, its people, and its climate (he is from North Dakota, after all).
Val and Jana also met in Rwanda, where Jana worked for the USAID mission in Kigali as its financial controller.
After early retirement from international agronomic consulting, the Eylands moved to the western Caribbean island of Roatan, where they established a hydroponic facility to service the burgeoning tourist industry (Roatan is a scuba diving destination). That facility, Blue Harbor Plantation, has been in existence for 15 years and continues to grow with the island. Despite the hot and steamy weather year-round, the operation currently produces 11,000 heads of gourmet lettuce a week, in addition to many bags of culinary herbs, and services virtually every resort and restaurant on the island.
Arkansas beckoned, however, and even tropical islands get stale after 15 years. So in 2010, the Eylands hired managers to run their Caribbean operation and purchased land 20 miles south of Fayetteville. They both had become convinced that the advantages of hydroponics (low water use, low fertilizer use, no fertilizer runoff, no pesticides, high yields, clean plants, no soil-borne diseases, no good land needed, etc.) were definitely part of the answer to the grand question many of us are pursuing: How can we grow high quality, nutrient-dense produce close to the consumer and without depending on fossil fuels?
Their extensive time in the developing world led the Eylands not only to question the merits of USAID, but those of US corporate agriculture and what it was doing to the soil, water, atmosphere, and maybe worst of all, the American waistline. They both became enamored with the grassroots agricultural movement whose mantra was sustainability, quality products, local production, green energy sources replacing fossil fuels, and minimal use of synthetic chemicals.
They designed and built a prototype geothermal/solar greenhouse in late 2012, then equipped it with NFT hydroponic equipment to start researching organic hydroponics in a low carbon footprint setting. After trialing many green energy ideas, lettuce varieties, hydroponic systems, and organic nutrient solutions, they decided to launch the business in late 2013 with the hydroponic production of salad greens on a compound organic/inorganic fertilizer blend in their all-weather greenhouse. They plan to pursue an even more sustainable and energy-efficient vegetable production system and hope to teach their findings through seminars and field days.
Blue Harbor Plantation hydroponic operation,