By Deb Alberto
For Hometown News
BREVARD -- On the southern outskirts of Brevard County, tucked away on a 2.75-acre plot of picturesque Corey Road, a bounty of fresh, hydroponically grown vegetables are being harvested.
Liberty Farms of Florida, a venture by former Congressman Val Steele and others in his community, is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, an idea that's growing, both literally and figuratively, throughout the Space Coast and beyond.
The energy and environmentally conscious method of hydroponics uses much less water by design, and is also space-efficient.
Farm manager Diane Solopek said the method is also more cost-effective and easier.
"The soil in Florida is hard to amend, and there's a lot to be said for Malabar's water, so hydroponics is a no brainer," she said.
The hydroponic method involves using a vertical grow system. The water from the top plants filter downward, nourishing the lower plants. Plants are raised and stacked, which also provides a natural protection against pests.
The method only requires about 10 percent of the water used in traditional farming operations, Ms. Solopek said.
The design also eliminates the need for ground application of pesticides, which, in traditional farming operations, tend to wind up in Florida's waterways.
"The hydroponic method is one, where the plants are grown off the ground, which reduces the possible diseases and the need for spraying," Mr. Steele said. "The vegetables are ultra-fresh, delicious, and have a much longer shelf life than the typically grown vegetable that you buy in the store."
The farm adheres to the Organic Materials Review Institute's standards of organic farming.
While Liberty Farms, which calls Grant-Valkaria home, hopes to open to the general public at some point, at present, it is only available to members. For $25 per week, members can pick up a box of roughly eight different types of freshly grown vegetables. The seasons begin with leafy vegetables, like lettuce and greens, followed by cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. Finally, the season finishes up with hearty, delicious plants, like cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. Members will also find unique vegetables, like candy cane beets and pac choi.
Plans are also under way for "you-pick" strawberries to open next February.
For more information, visit www.libertyfarms.info/farm