Greenhouse coming to town

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, November 6, 2013
West Liberty has always been an agriculturally focused community, surrounded by farms and farmers alike. Fresh produce is never far away.

But what about those winter months, when the frozen ground yields little more then snow and dirt? One couple believes they have the solution.

Don Bates and Susan Nicol, of Iowa City, just broke ground for "41 North Greens and Herbs" in Liberty Park. They plan to bring fresh produce to West Liberty during the colder part of the year via a green house.

"We'll be growing during the offseason, as in the winter months," said Bates. "We don't want to step on other produce providers, so that's why we chose this time."

By off-months, he means late October into early May. The greenhouse will focus on leafy greens, including lettuce and culinary herbs.

The greenhouse will employ hydroponic gardening, a system that focuses on feeding produce mineral-nutritious water without the use of soil.

The roots of the plants are based in gutters, or channels, filled with water that circulates throughout the the greenhouse. The controlled environment eliminates the effects of the elements.

According to Bates this creates cleaner and fuller heads of lettuce and herbs without the use of pesticides.

"We've done this on a smaller scale before as a small business hobby in the suburbs of Chicago," said Bates.

The couple moved from Illinois to Iowa City a year and a half ago. They've chosen West Liberty due to its great location between Muscatine and Iowa City.

They'll market their produce to local vendors and businesses. However, the first step is to begin construction.

Having broken ground to lay the foundation on Columbus and Freedom Street, parts of the greenhouse will begin to arrive early in December. If all goes according to plan, 41 North Green and Herbs will begin business in late December and early January.

This means a short production season, and will give the two a chance to perfect their systems through trial and error.

While the two don't live in West Liberty, they've grown to like the community.

"We didn't know about West Liberty when we first got here, but now we realize it's wonderful," said Nicol. They have two daughters and one son.

However, they plan to stay in Iowa City for a while longer as their younger daughter makes her way through the school system.
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