Food poisoning spurs local food conversion
It took a bout of food poisoning to convince Scott Rowdon to grow his own food, but now the Texas farmer has his eyes set on growing fresh, healthy food for everyone around him.
Rowdon’s foray into farming began with an emergency room visit following dinner at a local burger joint near his home in Little Elm, Texas, about two years ago. “It came about kind of on accident,” he said.
After his recovery, Rowdon decided he wanted to grow more of his own food. But like much of Texas, Little Elm — which sits on the northern side of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area — isn’t celebrated for its soils.
“Down here in Texas, we have horrible clay soil,” Rowdon said. “It is horrible. But I thought, there had to be a way to be able to grow.”
He began exploring aquaponics and built his first system using a 55-gallon drum and a stock tank with catfish, all indoors. Then he came across Bright Agrotech’s hydroponic technology and purchased a ZipGrow Tower system, which soon became a second system, then a wall, then 25 Towers.
“It just continued to grow,” he said.
Rowdon began growing microgreens and herbs for himself, family members and friends. Then he started selling them at farmers’ markets about a year ago, and Olive Trunk Farms was born.
Microgreens are especially exciting, and Rowdon uses their vivid colors and bright flavors as selling points.
“Whatever I have at the market that day, I have samples for,” he said.
For customers who don’t want to eat full-grown kale or broccoli, Rowdon presents tiny shoots packed with nutrition and flavor, grown locally, harvested that day and fresh as can be.
One repeat customer, who has been purchasing Olive Trunk Farms sunflower shoots for the last year, said she had trouble maintaining healthy vitamin levels because of medication she takes. But after adding microgreens to her daily meals, her most recent blood work came back great even without supplements.
“[Microgreen sales are] going to be all about education and what you can do with microgreens,” Rowdon said. (Learn about microgreens for yourself here.)
He’s planning to take his greens to Earth Day Texas in Dallas in April, which is touted as the world’s largest Earth Day festival. More than 130,000 people attended last year’s three-day event to learn about the latest technologies and innovations shaping the world.
In June, Olive Trunk Farms will have a booth at the new Frisco Fresh Market, a daily market to be open year-round. The indoor/outdoor market will bring together farmers, foodies and chefs to 30 acres in central Texas to share their love for local produce, and Olive Trunk Farms figures to be right in the mix.
Rowdon is also looking ahead to moving Olive Trunk Farms from its current urban location to a spot with more space for indoor and outdoor growing, where he can power his operation using solar and wind. Already he’s working on ways to recycle and conserve water, such as running a dehumidifier with the microgreens and storing the excess water, which cuts into his water usage.
“My hope is to have an extremely small footprint, but yet very productive,” he said.
As a self-proclaimed technical person with a background working for a financial institution, Rowdon is still surprised about becoming an accidental farmer. But now he’s looking forward to working with his hands, digging into soil and building a business.
“Watching everything I grow from seed to harvest is just absolutely amazing,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me watching all of this happen and the changes every single day. It’s never a dull moment and it’s never the same day twice,” he said.
He’s also enjoying being part of the growing community of local food producers bringing healthy produce to their friends and neighbors. “It’s healthy, it’s fresh, it’s local, and we want healthy people,” he said.
Interested in becoming a farmer like Scott?
The Upstart Farmers are the modern farmers responsible for hundreds of indoor local farms around the world. Though from a variety of backgrounds and unexpected skill sets, the Upstart Farmers find themselves unified in their vision to feed healthy food to their communities and overcome the limits of traditional ag with innovative farms.
Upstart University trains new farmers to find markets, build farms, and gow incredible crops. Join Upstart U for a free week today to explore your potential as a farmer.