Aquaponics Austin Texas by Chef Shelley Pogue

Food For Thought,Through The Eyes of a Generation X’er, Austin Texas Aquaponics

April 2, 2013

I have always had fond memories of food and being around
cooking and a love for all aspects of it the food chain or cycle. I remember
being a small child and being at my Great-Grandparents land and all of the fields
being planted with many different types of produce. I remember my
Great-Grandmothers pet Tom the Turkey who got a reprieve after she became very
fond of him, and he was fed with their scraps of fresh vegetables.  I know that my Great-Grandfather would have
rather had him for a nice dinner but Tom became my Grandmothers faithful friend,
and I can still hear her talking to him. I remember my Mamaw Gracie and her
chickens and getting the fresh eggs that they produced and her fresh vegetable
garden and the wonderful fruit it provided. I come from a lineage of good
family Farmers.

That all seems like a lifetime ago and things were much
different back then. People who did not have much money had to grow their own
produce to sustain their way of life. I know my Great Grandparents survived the
Great Depression the same as my Grandparents did by growing their own food and
having the resources to provide for their families.  My Fathers family had many children to feed
and not much money to do that and same with my mom’s side. Both sides of my
family grew up in or around the South East Dallas Suburbs better known as the
River Bottoms. The land there is not much good for anything other than striping
it for aggregate or farming.

There were many people that lived and worked that land for
many years, and I am assuming that there are a few that still do. I know that
my Great Grandfather sold goods at the Dallas Farmers Market to provide for his
family and it was a very cool thing to do when I was younger. At the end of the
day he would give away what was left to others, looking back on it now I know
that they did not have much in the way of wealth but he was willing to help out
other people who needed a little help too. I have much pride when reminiscing
about my family and the type of people they were, and I feel that some of that
has been imprinted on me and who I have become today.

As a child I was not much into the whole farming aspect of
food and to me it was much easier to go to the local grocery to get fresh produce.
It was a treat to go visit my Great-Grandparents at different times on and get
some fresh vegetables but we did not do that often. Being a pre-teen and then
onto my teenage years, going there was more of an inconvenience because of
wanting to hang out with my friends, or participate in sports in school.  There were many different fast food chains
popping up on most neighborhood corners that you could go get a meal that would
take place of the sit down family style meal and there was no clean up either. Life
was changing very fast and probably for the local farmer too.

As I have aged, the life of fast food has completely taken
over America. The health of most Americans is now in jeopardy for future
generations, and I have tried to become more involved to make a difference. I
made a life change back in 2005 and decided to go to Culinary school. I did
that for many reasons and one of the main reasons was due to the happiness I
had when cooking as a child with my Mamaw Gracie. I figured if I could relive
that, and be happy doing something that I loved for a living then why not give
it a go! I must say that doing that has absolutely changed my life. During
Culinary school I lost my Pepaw aka Grandpa to diabetes related issues, and
found out that it runs in my family. My mom was diagnosed with diabetes
and  I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. I
had also gained about 40 pounds in Culinary school, I took the tasting a bit
too far, but I was happy that I was a good cook.

I have planted a raised bed garden for the last few Summers
and they have not done very well here in Texas due to the drought we have been
in. I have been looking for alternative ways to try and grow my own fruits and
vegetables. I have tried to become much more healthy in all aspects of my life
and shed the weight I had gained. I try to work out and eat much better, and I
want to offer the same lifestyle to the clients I cook for. I have been very
unimpressed with the vegetables I find at the local grocery and to purchase
Organic it becomes way too expensive over time. I have clients that want to eat
only Organic but it is very costly for them too. I made a decision to try and
go back to sustainable living and really become self sufficient and I was able
to do that with Aquaponics. I am also going to be able to offer completely
healthy, and organic vegetables to my clients too. It will be a win, win
situation for us all.

I have done much research on the web about Hydroponics and
Aquaponics. I have found  that sometimes
the vegetables do not taste right when going in the Hydroponics direction due
to the nutrients you have to add to your water. I have a pretty good palate and
if the vegetable was a little off that would not be oaky with me.  I think that I made the right decision for
me  to implement a sustaining system due
to the nature of having a complete eco system in my back yard. The fish will do
their thing in the water and then the plants clean it up again. I decided to
get pretty creative with mine and I have decided to use any and all space for
food growth. I have a couple of Aquaponics systems, and then I also have pots
and a small raised bed with full sun. I am going to enjoy walking out the back
door and picking fresh fruit and vegetables.

I feel that I am trying to do what is right for me, my
clients, and for the environment. It is my hope that many more people will try
and get involved in the organic movement and lessen the carbon footprint in
their part of the world. I think that if we have free space in the neighborhood
we should try to implement some type of garden system for everyone to work and
reap the benefits of good organic vegetables and fruit. I feel that we all
would be much healthier for it, and possibly reduce the risks of our younger
generations not being able to live life to the fullest potential because of all
the health factors of today’s fast food diet. I cannot change the world but I
can start with me.

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