By SHANNON WATKINS
What’s in a name? In one case, too much coincidence.
The Pulaski Community Partners Coalition found that their Green Gills aquaponics program name was too close to that of a similar venture in Chicago. “Better to find out now than a year from now,” said Spiegel pragmatically in an email to PCPC members.
After casting about in their membership for a new one, First Presbyterian Church’s Pastor Melissa McNair-King came up with an alternate: PCPC G.R.O.W. (Gaining Readiness & Opportunities to Work).
They will operate, according to PCPC Coordinator Lee Spiegel, as a nonprofit business.
GROW came about when the grants funding PCPC, which exists to help keep kids and teens away from drugs and alcohol, ran out. Instead of applying for more, they decided to start their own business.
After some research, they decided to go with aquaponics, which involves growing fish and plants together. The fish (in this case, tilapia) provide waste which feeds the plants, and the plants, in turn, purify the water for the fish. The business will provide money to sustain itself and an educational experience for kids who help keep the aquaponics system running.
Although Red Sun is a hydroponics business, Spiegel said that someone from there had offered mentorship for G.R.O.W., in addition to help from the Master Gardeners, said Spiegel.
“Then we have people from Virginia Tech helping who have an aquaculture background,” Spiegel said, noting that they would be offering time and expertise. “They’re going to help with getting us started raising fish and keeping our fish healthy.”
Speigel also said that Caterpillar had given PCPC a $5,000 grant some time before it announced it would leave the area. So far, she said, the $5,000 consists the sum total of funding available for G.R.O.W., which is currently seeking a space to set up. “The thing is,” Spiegel said, “nobody wants to give you money until you have a space.”
Though they haven’t found their home base yet, Speigel says that interest is already building up for G.R.O.W. “I’ve talked with (Pulaski County High School Assistant Principal) Ross Matney and invited him. He says his students want to participate.” She is also considering getting Dublin Middle School students involved in the program, she said.