SIDNEY — With freezing temperatures and a light snow falling from the sky Tuesday evening, there was little indication that spring is on the horizon in Montcalm County.
But for those who stepped into the Montcalm Area Career Center (MACC) in Sidney for the fifth annual All Things Green event, plants, gardens and landscaping products were found in abundance as more than 20 vendors gathered to promote local agriculture.
Merry Kim Meyers of the MACC FFA chapter, who organizes the event, said she the turnout for this year’s event was “by far” the best she’s seen in its short history.
“Agriculture is coming to the forefront in our county,” she said. “We’re beginning to realize more and more what we need to do to produce quality food, products that are local and take a little pride in Montcalm County.”
With the various vendors having set up shop at the MACC building from 5:30 to 8 p.m., ranging from local organizations that featured garden and landscaping, garden art, animal health, herb sales, recycling and other agriculture related items, Meyers estimated about 125 people came and browsed through the various booths.
Visitors were able to seek expert advice from green professionals, browse educational displays, tour the MACC greenhouse and purchase plants, products and services from area businesses.
Walking away from the event, Meyers hoped visitors would remember what they witnessed at the MACC.
“I hope they feel a pulse of green that tells them we are not doing this alone,” she said. “Everybody in our county has a part in this that is going to make us continue to be on the forefront of agriculture and science. Montcalm County is a local place people can turn to for their products and needs.”
One of Meyer’s students, Lakeview senior Valarie Hopkins, 18, designed and built an aquaponic food production system that was on display in the MACC greenhouse.
Aquaponics combines a traditional aquaculture of raising fish in a tank with hydroponics, cultivating plants in water, in an environment together.
“This is an aquaponic system where plants and fish help each other, it’s a mutual relationship,” Hopkins said. “People who have walked by think it’s really elaborate, they’ve been amazed watching it work.”
The fish waste is used as fertilizer for the plants. Water from the tank is poured onto the bottom level of the aquaponic system, watering a variety of plants. A sump pump then draws water from the bottom level, pours it onto even more plants above on the top level, and eventually makes its way back into the fish tank, completing the cycle.
Horizon Hydroponics Educational Director Harley Smith gave a presentation to 40 people on hydroponics, what it is and how to implement it in Michigan in one’s home.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.
“Europe is way ahead of us in hyrdroponics,” Smith said. “Nearly 100 percent of all of the vegetables grown in northern Europe are grown in hydroponics today. We’re behind the rest of the world.”
According to Smith, 70 percent of what is grown in Canada using hydroponics is imported here into the United States.
“We are importing food from across the river, exporting money and exporting jobs,” he said. “If they can do it there, why can’t we do it in Detroit? Why can’t we do it here and feed our own children with nutritious food?”
Meyers said she asked Smith to come because she wanted an educational component related to agriculture.
“I want my students and the public to see that this is fun, but it’s fun with a purpose,” she said. “You could potentially grow parsley or basil for a local restaurant from your dorm room.”