Drop The Beet Farms is nestled in the back property of Calgo Gardens in Freehold, New Jersey. It’s a lively home for creatives and artisans alike and runs a promising new-age farming system. Capable of producing crops year-round through a sustainable growing method called aquaponics, this farm stands out as more than just a fresh alternative, but as the future of agriculture. Spread throughout two spacious greenhouses, it is the largest system of its kind in the Northeast. Dually educational and aesthetically wonderful, tours of the 20,000-gallon tank facility are available to the public. With active community engagement, a slew of educational seminars, and perhaps the greenest thumb in the Garden State, proud owner, and founder Cody Parker continues to build it into the successful facility it is.
The Power of Aquaponics
Unlike traditional farms, Drop The Beet Farms uses an eco-friendly growing method called aquaponics. Aquaponics merges fish raising and soilless plant growing, creating a symbiotic, self-sustaining relationship between the two. Both the fish and plants release bi-products that help the other develop, relying very little on human interaction to keep the crops growing. After the bacteria from the fish feces turns ammonia into nitrate, the facility’s inventive piping helps deliver that nutritious water to the plants. In return, the plants provide healthy water back to the fish tanks to continue the cycle. The benefits of aquaponics are plentiful: the method takes up far less space, utilizes less water, and can even be used for vertical farming to accommodate urban environments.
Parker has spent the last four years growing the community’s knowledge and interest in aquaponics. While his home base is in Freehold, Parker travels the tri-state area eager to help schools and community centers begin their own growing system. All it takes are gigantic glass fish tanks, strategic QV piping, and Parker’s innate passion to bring the magic of aquaponics on the road.
Outside the greenhouse, his interactive workshops about the systems he installs have led to countless people taking a greater interest in organic gardening. It has a section on their website for any school or business to apply for their own aquaponics system. Schools are especially grateful for Parker’s work, as his aquaponics tanks not only help educate, but also feed the communities they’re in. After a successful harvest of Rumson Elementary School’s aquaponics system, dozens of bags of lettuce were harvested and given to faculty, staff, and another local school. Teaching kids about responsible farming through aquaponics has not only helped New Jerseyans think sustainably but has also allowed people to immerse themselves in a unique, scientific experience.
As Green As It Gets at Drop The Beet Farms
Everything is grown here is pesticide-free and wholly organic. Their lettuce can remain fresh in your fridge for over two weeks, far outlasting the typical greens we import from California. Because aquaponics is such an effective way to grow crops, Drop The farm often deals with a surplus of veggies that are made available for sale. The farm offers a membership for a weekly grocery box, which also contains fungi from local Smiling Earth Mushrooms. An ever-rotating menu, the box usually holds around six to seven different vegetables for your cooking pleasure. Their social media often highlights local chefs who turn their fresh ingredients into delicious cuisine and their website lists several recipes.
Just past the chicken coup at Calgo Gardens is where you’ll find them. Cozy, quiet, and brimming with life, their greenhouses give an in-depth look at the nitrogen cycle and its role in the future of farming. So much can be learned about this incredibly special and undervalued form of sustainable agriculture.
Want to learn more about the work Drop The Beet Farms is doing in New Jersey? Check out their website.
Main image of & taken by founder Cody Parker