When Riverview Golf Course and Country Club became Riverview Gardens five years ago, we inherited a 3,500 square foot pool, plus locker rooms, cabana and deck. It sat idle for 4 years, waiting for its new mission. A little over a year ago, thanks to the innovation and hard work of Miron Construction Company and its subcontractors, that former pool was dedicated as a new hydroponics greenhouse social enterprise to serve veterans in our ServiceWorks® job-training program. Then, veterans participating in job training in the hydroponics greenhouse welcomed non-veterans with cognitive disabilities and barriers to employment to work side-by-side with them, encouraging and helping each other grow.
ServiceWorks helps people experiencing homelessness and living in poverty build confidence, pride and hope, and helps prepare them to obtain stable, permanent employment in our community. After our team helps place ServiceWorks graduates in employment, we help support them in our 2-year placement success program. Today, 81% of individuals in the placement success program remain stably employed.
The hydroponics greenhouse is a year-round venture where ServiceWorks participants most notably grow Living Lettuce, which you can purchase at all 22 Festival Foods grocery stores throughout Wisconsin. In addition to growing several hundreds of heads of lettuce every week, 2016 has been a year of new adventures in hydroponics by ServiceWorks participants. Veterans and civilians in ServiceWorks came together to build hydroponic bucket systems, re-engineer microgreens racks and construct vertical hydroponic NFT systems. The results of this hard work and perseverance are diversified products that we sell, and we reinvest profits back into serving more people in the ServiceWorks job-training program.
As 2016 comes to a close, enjoy the beauty created by ServiceWorks participants as they transform their lives and feed our community:
Colorful peppers are grown in hydroponics bucket systems and are sold to restaurants, as well as included in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. They are deliciously flavorful and sweet. They make the perfect snack for on the go or in salads, and taste great sautéed and added to your favorite dish. Like all of Riverview Gardens’ hydroponically-grown produce, they are non GMO, as well as pesticide-free.
Purple basil grows on rafts in the hydroponics pool. We sell basil to institutions, as well as in CSA shares. Purple basil has all of the same culinary features as regular basil, while being extra visual pleasing. It makes a delicious pesto and adds colorful flavor to your favorite sauces.
The pictured microgreens are a mild radish flavor; however microgreens come in array of different types and flavors. Microgreens are juvenile seedlings of herbs and vegetables that are edible. They are packed with nutrients, even higher than their mature counterparts. They are tasty sprinkled over a salad, pizza, or on roasted vegetables.
Spinach grows in one of the newest hydroponics systems on the former pool deck. Spinach is a more common crop, but nevertheless delicious. It is a superfood that is great as a salad, in dips, sautéed, and as an addition to most recipes.
Romaine lettuce is the newest hydroponics products. The photo shows recently-planted romaine lettuce on the pool. Romaine lettuce is great chopped as a tossed Caesar salad, and its hearts can be grilled and leaves used as lettuce wraps.
Another recent addition to the hydroponics greenhouse social enterprise is Nasturtiums – edible flowers! Nasturtiums carry a mild peppery flavor with a touch of mustard. They are great way to take your salads to the next level by adding pops of color. However nasturtiums are more often used in the culinary world by chefs to create stunning plates. Nasturtiums are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C. We will be selling nasturtiums to local restaurants.
To efficiently use vertical space in the hydroponics greenhouse, Geronimo tomatoes are grown in bucket systems, and they take on the appearance of “trees” more than plants. There is not much you can’t do with these tomatoes. Hydroponically-grown tomatoes are sold institutionally and added in CSA shares.
Tarragon is an herb grown on rafts in the hydroponics pool. It is often used in French cuisine cooking, and it goes perfectly with chicken, seafood, fruits, and eggs. Tarragon can also be used to flavor oils and vinegars. The leaves are best fresh as that is when they are most flavorful, but can be used dried as well. Tarragon will be sold to restaurants and other institutions.
Happy New Year!