A local family is trying to help feed their community in an innovative and healthy way. KULR-8 went to Swanky Roots, to learn about their sustainable form of agriculture.
Swanky Roots is producing all kinds of leafy greens for Montana out of their greenhouse using their aquaponics system. So what is aquaponics?
"We use aquaponics to grow our leafy greens. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture, which is raising fish in tanks; and hydroponics, growing plants without soil. So we're able to grow leafy greens year round without the use of pesticides, herbicides, we don't add any fertilizers, so it's naturally grown year round right here in Montana," said Veronnaka Evenson, Co-founder of Swanky Roots.
Swanky Roots raises blue gill fish which provide waste. Then, microbes convert that waste naturally into nutrients in the water. The floating plants then filter that water, absorb the nutrients, and the clean water is returned back to the fish.
"Growing this way, we are able to raise a head of lettuce with seven times less water than out in the field and water is such a valuable resource and now even more so. I think it's really important to think about sustainable ways of growing and I think it's important to have local food because we're no longer having to truck things long distances to get here and especially being able to have fresh greens in Montana year round it makes for a healthier community as well," Evenson said.
Swanky Roots began construction in 2016, and after a year of development; they started selling fresh greens to the community last Spring. Now, they're in grocery stores all over the state, and top restaurants in Billings such as The Fieldhouse, Lilac, and The Sassy Biscuit.
Swanky Roots is paving the way for aquaponic agriculture in Montana but it all started as one mother's way of keeping her daughter close to home.
"I think it was her idea to keep me here forever and so far it's working really well. I was nearing graduation from MSU Bozeman and I was looking for job opportunities, trying to see what I wanted to do and she came to me with this idea of this greenhouse," said Veronnaka Evenson.
Veronnaka graduated with degrees in Plant Science and Agricultural Education. Worried Veronnaka may have a tough time finding a job, her mother, Ronna Klamert, proposed the idea of running a greenhouse at home in Billings.
"She had, well I like to say, five, ten degrees because she had all this education, and needed somewhere to go, and I didn't want to see her go, so really I did put a little bit behind it to keep her around," said Klamert.
The mother daughter duo made it their mission to provide healthy, fun ways to keep their family, and their community healthy.
Now, their aquaponics greenhouse is the largest in the state, and it's starting to change the way people think about farming.
And maybe most importantly, Ronna achieved her goal of keeping her daughter close to home.
"I mean family is everything, if you don't have family, and a healthy family, then, it just it's just dear to my heart that I get to come over here and see her everyday," Klamert said.
Swanky Roots gives guided tours of their greenhouse, and also sell all kinds of greens and edible flowers on site. You can find more information here: https://www.swankyroots.com/