Good Life Farms: Lambs, Lettuce & Love

September 7, 2011 in North America, Travelogue, United States

A crisp fall breeze blew stiffly across the fields at Good Life Farms and the air smelled distinctly of fall. Gabe tumbled out of the van first, and into the arms of Mrs. Kelly, his rental Mama for a few weeks this summer when he was working as an intern at Good Life.

The Kelly’s and their four children are the hard working dynamo family behind the biggest hydroponic lettuce operation in Indiana (perhaps in all of the mid-west) as well as long term friends of the Miller Family. In fact, Deb was the violinist at their wedding.

Their sky blue farm house with hardwood floors, high ceilings and a crystal chandelier in the dining room was once a bed & breakfast. Now it’s the delightfully busy hub of farm life, child rearing, home schooling & what must be an endless task of keeping interns fed, clothes washed, produce picked & packed for market, sales & marketing, and more. Did I mention that two of their children are toddlers? Somewhere in all of that whirlwind Deb finds time to play her fiddle for her sheep, and they actually stand still to listen.

They don’t just grow lettuce and sheep, they also have fields of spinach, heirloom tomoatoes, green beans and a few volunteer pumpkins out behind the barn. They’ve got two horses and four mutton sheep, but the herd is about to explode as the three ewes are each pregnant with twins and due in about two weeks… that will more than double the herd!

The hydroponic greenhouses are absolutely fascinating.

Row after row of lettuce growing in plastic trays with two inch holes punched in them are nourished by a steady stream of nutrient enriched water. It’s far more water efficient than growing the lettuce in the field, the farmer isn’t dependent on weather, first of last frost, rain fall or anything other than dependable electricity to keep the water pumps and ventilation systems running.

We were surprised at how warm the greenhouses are.

It turns out that lettuce grows best at a steady 80F. We were all under the impression that it was a cooler weather crop. It was fascinating to study the growth process, from tiny plants with two electric green leaves poking out of a cube of growing medium, to gorgeous fat heads of leaf lettuce in a rainbow of greens and reds.

The Wood Family was inspired. They’ve got a gorgeous six acre farm of their own in the hills of New Hampshire and they left Good Life talking about the possibility of a green house and a homeschool hydroponic project of their own!