Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2014

Aquaponics program set Monday

Nov 21, 2012
LEDGER ARCHIVE PHOTO Karla and Russell Rebling’s aquaponic system will be the topic of a free presentation Monday at the Fairfield Public Library.

The Jefferson County Master Gardeners Club is sponsoring a free presentation about aquaponics or aquaculture at 6:30 pm. Monday at the Fairfield Public Library.

Karla and Russell Rebling of Fairfield will be speaking about their aquaponic system, which is a system of growing fish and plants together.

An aquaponic system can be as small as a home fish tank with a bed of herbs and a grow light above the tank or huge. The trick is in the balance of fish and plants so that they support each other in a way that both thrive.

Aquaculture is the combination of two divergent systems of food production.  Hydroponics is a system of growing plants in nutrient rich water without soil. Aquaculture or aquafarming is the farming of “aquatic organisms,” like fish, in tanks.  Rather than add a lot of outside nutrients in chemical form, the nutrient-rich water from the fish tanks is used to fill the growing beds. In turn, the plants filter that water by absorbing all the nutrients and return it to the fish tanks clean and full of oxygen.

The Aztecs and ancient people in China and Thailand cultivated plants and fish together.  The system has been revived into modern usage from many directions. It is popular in drought ridden Australia. In the U.S., aquaculture has flourished from the inspiration of Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee. Growing Power is completely sustainable in that it uses compost and solar energy to heat its greenhouses in the winter. It has become the model for many inner cities and high population areas to provide fresh food and teach practical skills.

Jefferson County has several aquaponic systems in various stages of completion, but the first one was built by Karla and Russell Rebling.  Russell Rebling has been farming all his life. In looking for a new way to grow crops, the couple built a special aquaponic greenhouse this year and stocked it with 1,700 tilapa fish. They are experimenting with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

During the free presentation Monday evening, the Reblings will be talking about their system, with a slide presentation.

The event is sponsored by the Jefferson County Master Gardeners Club.

The club is about all aspects of horticulture and the love of gardening large and small. Members are a diverse collection of plant lovers who are graduates of the Iowa State University-taught Master Gardeners program.

A major part of the program is community service and ongoing education above and beyond ISU. Members attend a wide range of workshops and educational field trips together. They share resources like plants food and expertise as well as network together. They have fun and inspire each other.

The aquaponic presentation is a sample of the possibilities explored by the group.

The club has participated in several community projects. The most extensive is the ongoing landscaping of the Maasdam Barns, where the group planted and cares for several hundred tulips and a variety of perennial and annual flowers, bushes and vines.

A new Master Gardeners class will be offered in Jefferson County this winter. For details, call Kim Keller at 919-6244 or Colleen Bell at 472-7010 or visit the website http://jcmastergardeners.blogspot.com.

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