Last Saturday Brian Evans loaded towers into the back of his car and sold his first living produce from Halo Greens.
Brian's passion for sustainable healthy living started during a stint in the Navy. It grew as he observed the "easy and quick" options typically available to consumers and compared those options with the food that he believed people deserved - but which unfortunately was harder to come by.
"I wanted to live out the healthy life that I think we all deserve. So I had to get out of the mainstream thinking that fast and convenient is the way to go, and learn more about quality and nutrition."
Simultaneously, he met aquaponics, a living cycle of fish and plants with sustainable results, and fell in love. His research brought him to ZipGrow, and the conclusion that he could make a living pursuing his passion- using aquaponics to supply his community with the food it deserved.
It just so happens that Brian's community in Charleston, South Carolina is one of the most welcoming and local-focused communities out there.
"All businesses I've come across.. I still haven't found one that's said, 'No I would not like this produce'... There's more demand than supply."
After a period of testing out a home aquaponics system and networking in downtown Charleston, Brian decided to start a small farm with ZipGrow Towers and found land close by. His location is picturesque; a red barn rests on five acres adjacent to the water and blanketed in woods.
Whereas many of our farmers would list "identifying demand" as their biggest challenge upon starting up their farm, Brian's receptive community shifted that challenge.
"People come to Charleston to eat food and for the friendly people. It's a great community and it's surrounded by good places to eat."
His advice to new farmers trying to network?
"Go over who you know and see where it could to from there. It could be a domino effect...Your dad knows the owner of the grocery store, who has this contact. Starting with the context that you have and building on that will for one will help people think about you and what your'e trying to do to where they will relay information back to you to help. But also for you to be able to find out what you need and know who to go to for what. Build on the network you currently have."
It helps that Brian lived downtown for a year prior to starting his farm and has the charisma to make friends quickly, but the farmer also has a lot of commitment to lend to the effort. He recently began a job at a health food store as well to gain the experience and make connections which will help him sell his produce to similar stores in the future.
"I've done the back end of the work, but I need to see if it's received well from customers, see to what degree they would like it implemented."
What's next for Halo Greens?
For now, Brian is developing farming skills, understanding his business, and starting slow.
"I'm not in over my head. I'm right where I want to be. And if this is successful I can take it to the next level," he says.
We're optimistic that Brian will take it to the next level, and more. His dedication to the ultimate goal of being impactful to his community is clear, and he's got the tools to succeed.
Brian especially looks forward to being able teach others the values and skills that he's learned in the past few years.
"What I'm doing here I see on a larger scale. But I also see an opportunity for education. There's no reason for my to keep this knowledge to myself. Might as well empower anybody else who wants to do this."
We're glad to have Brian as a member of the Upstart Farmers community.