Local Aquaponics Convention Attracts Hundreds

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Before you grab your Fritos, or even your packaged Pop Tarts, you may want to talk to the 145 people who gathered to talk about homegrown food Wednesday.

People gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and some were from as close as Idaho in the United States, some were from as far as Haiti.

“You have a country that is devastated with deforestation,” Janeil Owen, executive director of Northwest Haiti Christian Mission (Ind.), said. “You have a country that is devastated with every hurricane that comes through.”

But after coming through Wisconsin a number of years ago, Owen decided to create the largest sustainable aquaponics system in one of the poorest countries in the world: Haiti.

Owen also said the concept of a aquaponic system is simple.

"(It’s) a fish in a barrel with a garden growing on top,” Owen said. “That's aquaponics, and it works, and it'll work anywhere in the world.”

Joel Salatin, Virginia farmer and convention speaker, said natural food fuels what he calls “food integrity.”

“You are what you eat, just like we are worried about the purity of the gasoline we use in our car,” Salatain said.

Salatin also said the current food market is manipulative.

“One (reason) is that it doesn't produce nutrient-dense food,” Salatin said. “It's nutrient deficient food."

Owen said anyone can start their own aquaponic system, and the most popular fish used is tilapia.

Even though there is a lot of science to the practice, Owen said eating sustainable boils down to one thing.

"We're growing together. We're eating together,” Owen said. “We need to be working not only to sustain our bodies but sustaining our families.”

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