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Frequently asked questions
How do I sign up to get FREE food?
It's easy! Just sign up by clicking on any of the sign-up buttons.
If you live outside of our current delivery area but still live in the Santa Fe area, you will be placed on our waiting list until we expand into your neighborhood.
If you live outside the Santa Fe area but commute into town on Wednesdays, we might be able to deliver to your workplace.
If you live and work outside the Santa Fe area, you can still sign up, and we'll let you know about other ways to support our efforts.
How can it be FREE?
As students at SFCC, we are conducting a research project to see how people respond both to our unique produce and to this farm-to-neighborhood business model.
In exchange, we do require that participants take the time to fill out three surveys per delivery and allow us to pick up our reusable packaging materials.
What will my FREE delivery consist of?
Our goal is to deliver two pounds of tasty, local, healthy, fresh and eco-friendly produce. Initially, this will consist of three types of lettuce: one pound of romaine and a half-pound each of red and green butterhead. As the study proceeds, we may change this up a bit.
We also hope to include an ice pack to keep your delivery fresh. We will need to pick up the ice pack later along with the other reusable packaging materials.
One thing that we will NOT deliver is a product that has any chance of being tainted in the way that typical lettuce often does before getting recalled. Since aquaponics uses fish fertilizer instead of manures from warm-blooded animals, our produce will not harbor any of the e. coli and salmonella that get people sick. Those e. coli and salmonella cannot survive in fish fertilizers because fish are cold-blooded animals.
How may FREE deliveries should I expect?
What day of the week will my FREE delivery arrive?
How unbelievably fresh will my FREE produce be?
Depending on how far away your neighborhood is from SFCC and our specific route with respect to your neighbors along the route, we expect that your food will be harvested an hour before we deliver it on average.
What time of day--more or less--will my FREE produce arrive?
We are shooting for between 5:30am and 7:30am, but this is a new way of distributing food, so we are just guessing at the moment. One thing is for sure: we will be harvesting your produce, on average, within an hour of delivery.
What is aquaponics, and why should I care?
Aquaponics is a form of agriculture that grows plants with nutrients provided by fish.
Unfortunately, aquaponics often gets confused with hydroponics. The two food-growing methods are similar but very different, too! In the former, you feed fish, and then fish and microbes provide plant nutrients. In the latter, you add chemicals to water in order to make plants grow. Aquaponic systems are, in fact, mini ecosystems. Hydroponic systems require sterilization of bacteria, so that microbial colonies are never allowed to exist—must less grow and thrive—the way we want them to grow in an aquaponic environment.
Although aquaponics has ancient roots in a some parts of the world, aquaponics—as we apply it—requires modern science and technology in order to create the highly water-efficient, closed-loop systems that produce few—if any—wastes.
The best part is how fresh and good it tastes, but a close second-best is the strong sense of great hope that aquaponics brings in an age of climate crisis and increasingly limited critical resources. It’s also exciting because it can get people interested in physics, chemistry, biology, real sustainability, and more!
The plants that typically do best in aquaponics farms will be the crops that we will focus on. In addition to many lettuce varieties, we intend to grow kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, bok choi, tat soi, Asian water spinach, basil, and more.
As important to the system as plants and fish, bacteria species are essential. They convert fish wastes into plant nutrients. The microbial life forms can be quickly and easily imported from another aquaponics system, but they also will show up immediately and will continue to grow and thrive on their own given fish wastes, proper water temperature, ample oxygen, and a suitable pH range in the water.
Ultimately, the plants absorb nitrates and other nutrients from the water, so that the water can be safely recirculated back to the fish. The reason that it can be a no-waste system is that what might be considered a “waste” product is actually great garden fertilizer!
Will I get FREE fish, too?
This current study is unlikely to provide FREE fish delivered to your door, but we might be able to arrange an event during which some of our fish would be served. (This idea is only in development--no promises!)
Most freshwater fish can live in aquaponics systems, but we’ll use mostly Nile tilapia for these reasons:
Tilapia require warm-water conditions, and so do our plants,
Tilapia prefer crowded conditions so they use space efficiently,
Tilapia do well on a 95% vegetarian diet,
Tilapia rank as the fourth most popular fish in America after shrimp, salmon, and tuna,
Tilapia taste great in everything from tacos to ceviche,
Tilapia are a popular fish to eat whole which means less proessing and less food waste, and
Tilapia, when grown in our clean tanks, won’t concentrate heavy metals or other contaminants.
Why will my FREE food be some of the most ecological food in the region?
Our method, deep-water culture (DWC), is one of the most ecological methods of growing and distributing food available in the region—if not the world. Here’s why:
Aquaponics uses 90% less water than typical farming.
Our farm will produce minimal waste.
It’s highly land efficient. (This kind of agriculture leaves more land available for wildlife because DWC can grow more than three times as much food on the same amount of land as can conventional, traditional, and large-scale organic farming.)
Being local is being ecological—as well as being empowering to the local economy.
Our eco-delivery van is solar powered!
Our packaging (we hope) will be reusable. This might not happen immediately.
Even the energy we use to pump water and air is connected to solar panels.
Why is it soooooooooooo yummy?
We think it’s primarily because its so fresh, but we also believe plants that grow directly in nutrient-rich water with plenty of oxygen in a protected and controlled environment could have better taste because they’ve never experienced harsh, windy, and dirty outdoor situations--not to mention avoiding the long road-trip from the farm in California (or beyond) to the truck that goes to the big distribution warehouse, from the distribtuon warehouse to the backside of the grocery store, from the grocery store receiving line to the grocery store shelf, from the lettuce ailse to the line at the cashier, from the cashier to your car, from your car to your driveway, and from your driveway to your fridge.
How can a FREE delivery of anything be so good for human beings?
It’s the freshest vegetables you can buy, and an increasing body of science points to a decrease in nutrient profiles in "fresh" food as ages after harvest.
It’s also true that fish are cold-blooded animals, so they do not produce the types of e. coli and salmonella that cause disease in humans. Lettuce scares and recalls are often caused by the common practice of watering plants either intentionally or accidentally with wastes from warm-blooded animals. We don’t do this in our system, so it’s healthier in this respect.
We will be using food-handlers gloves and taking other precautions--especially during this age of Covid-19--in order to prevent the spread of the virus. If our fresh food allows you to skip a trip or two to the grocery store or the veggie aisle where hunderds of vectors (or more) could affect your experience, we think it's a safer product for you, your family, our coomunity, the nation, and the human family.
What's the deal with the packaging?
If you’re old enough to remember (or imaginative enough to consider) an early morning milkman or woman dropping off fresh milk and picking up empty bottles, it’s that same concept applied to lettuce and leafy greens. Although we might not be able to pull this off at first, in the long term we intend to drop off fresh stuff, pick up your previous delivery’s containers, clean them, and reuse them. As long as there are enough interested consumers—bye, bye single-use plastics—at least when it come to local greens. HOWEVER! Due to COVID-19, we intend to use food-grade single-use plastic inside of a reusable insulated bag in order to further reduce any risks.
Where is the farm, and when can I check it out?
There’s a big greenhouse on the south side of the Santa Fe Community College next to the Trades and Advanced Technology Center. In a small part of that greenhouse are a couple of deep-water culture (DWC) systems. We’ll be growing produce for this research project in one of those DWCs. Please let us know if you’d like know about the next public-tour, but (like most schools these days) for the time being we are closed.
What is DWC?
DWC stands for deep-water culture. it's one of several methods for growing plants in a closed-loop environment. Roots dangle in about a foot of water. The fish swim in separate tanks, and the biofilters are housed, primarily, in another set of tanks. Now, a foot may not seem very deep, but compared to the trickle of water associated with another type of controlled-environment agriculture, nutrient film technique (NFT), it's about 100 times deeper than the "film" of water used in those systems!
What does filling out the suveys require?
Most of the survey questions will be multiple choice or similar types of questions (no essays!), and we expect that the surveys with average about seven or eight easy questions each. We expect to send one out a few days before each delivery, one on the day of the delivery, and one about three weeks after each delivery.