Hydroponics, Processing Kitchen & Grass Fed Beef Featured During Summer Tour
Happy Hydros in Pukwana, SD hosted a S.D. Specialty Producers Association tour on July 28, 2019. Owners, Mark and Teal Scholl showcased their four greenhouses and hydroponic production of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. Bumblebees were hard at work in the greenhouse and participants were asked to not swat the workers.
Participants were also led through the packing room and on-site commercial kitchen, Grandma D’s Kitchen, LLC, which was formed in 2016 as a sister company to Happy Hydros. The kitchen facility is third party verified by SGS and accredited for Good Manufacturing Practices. Grandma D’s Kitchen specializes in small batch processing and offers co-packing services to other local entrepreneurs. Small batch processing ensures food safety and superb freshness.
Grandma D’s Kitchen evolved naturally by having a large amount of produce next door in the greenhouses. Packed products include assorted Garden Salsa, Salsa Verde, Apple Butter, Fresh Salsa Casera, Winter Jam, Old Country BBQ Sauce, and Bird & Beef Wing Sauce.
Participants of the Grass Fed Beef Tour met on a country road south of Pukwana beside one of the lush fields of Bijou Grass Fed Meat. Owner Larry Wagner shared his story of taking his family’s 1600 acres from a more traditional operation to grass fed and grass finished beef. According to Wagner, there is a big difference stating, “Grass finished is bigger. Grain finished is fatter.” Grass fed animals are harvested around three years of age. Animals finished with grain are harvested anywhere from 16 to 22 months. According to Wagner, you can taste the difference.
Josh Lefers of Audubon Dakota also spoke to participants. Lefers discussed the reality that conserving grassland in South Dakota means working with landowners. According to Lefers, Wagner is a landowner that manages his property with soil health in mind. The benefits are not only in more diverse grasses, but diverse wildlife and songbirds. During a songbird survey in 2018, thirty-two different species of songbirds were documented on one section of Wagner’s property.
Lefers broke down a couple of definitions for ‘soil’ and ‘health’. Soil isn’t dirt. Soil has four components: organic matter, minerals, water, and oxygen. Health means function. If someone or something has health it is able to function according to its design. When soil is healthy it retains its cover. Living roots are in the soil. Diversity of plant life exists in the soil. The soil is disturbed as little as possible, except strategically. Healthy soil provides life for wildlife, livestock, and insects. Healthy soil also retains water and stops erosion.
Lefers conducted an infiltration test from Wagner’s field. Having received a half-inch of rain late morning and 11.5 inches for the month of July, it took two minutes and twenty-six seconds for the water to soak into the soil. The waist high grasses in the pasture were lush. The dark black soil was rich in organic matter and wet. If 2020 happens to be a dry year, Wagner’s field will still be producing grass that will grow beef because the soil will retain the water.