More than three dozen people gathered in the Highlands on the unluckiest of days, Friday the 13th, to pay tribute to a man who proved to be very lucky for the Ford School Community Garden.
Item Photo / Owen O'Rourke
Friends, city officials and children came together under the blazing sun to dedicate the garden's aquaponic system and remember Harrison Harley. Harley, who died just a year ago, had dedicated himself to the garden, working there almost daily during the spring, summer and fall months. His goal was to see the garden become a year-round venture and he thought aquaponics was the way to make it happen.
From left, Teondra Sneed, Meagdalana Delly, Alex Ixlaj, Nathan Whitcomb, James Pettipas and Jacklim Damas are framed by a sunflower grown in the garden at the Ford Elementary School while attending the dedication of the garden's aquaponic system on Friday. (Item Photo / Owen O'Rourke)
Aquaponics combines raising aquatic animals such as fish or crayfish with hydroponics, cultivating plants in water. Highland Coalition co-President David Gass said Harley set up a small system at the school to prove that lettuce could be grown by filtering waste water from a fish tank rather than using soil and it worked.
Since then a larger system was built by David Broad and Prasith Ouk, that includes a large pool area for fish and an extended open greenhouse where plants grow in pots fed by ever circulating water. Talapia, provided by Dr. Joe Buttner, were released into the tank by Gass with some help from a group of children from the Lynn Economic Opportunity youth program, who work in the garden.
"He introduced us to a new idea that is not a new idea, it's probably 1,000 years old," Gass said. "The fish in the tank do their business in the water, it's cleaned up by bacteria and the water is piped to the grow bed where we're now growing lettuce."
Gass said the system is more than just about growing food, it's about science and using resources that are readily available. Claire Crane, principal of the Ford School, said she remembers Harley getting very excited about aquaponics. "I'm sure Harry's looking down on us saying 'way to go,'" she said.Gass said what makes aquaponics so valuable is that it can be set up anywhere.
Bob Dugas stopped by the event to tip his hat to Harley's memory. Dugas said he remembered asking Harley, shortly before his death, if he intended to run for School Committee again. He ran unsuccessfully in 2009. "He said no, he was having too much fun at the Ford School garden," Dugas said.
School Committee member Rick Starbard, Ward 5 Councilor Brendan Crighton and Gardy Jean-Francois, who is running for the 10th Essex District seat, were also on hand for the event. Doreen Murray from Building Bridges Through Music led the small crowd in an old fashioned sing-a-long while members of the Food Project and garden volunteers put together an outdoor lunch buffet.
"Harry was the one nearest to me because he believed in science," said Mohammed Al-hamdany, who also consulted on the aquaponics project. "Agriculture is science and when you get someone like Harry, he knew that, he was good to work with."
Photo and Story Courtesy of Chris Stevens Lynn Item