By Lauren Stepp
With traffic congesting thoroughfares and apartments being thrown up left and right, it may seem odd that two Savannah transplants are filling a tight farming niche in Arden. But Asheville Hydroponics and Organics is taking urban development in stride by pioneering a no-dirt-required philosophy.
“Just to be clear, we love and promote organic farming methods, but some of us don’t have much access to land,” says co-owner Andrew Morris. “We believe that shouldn’t keep people from growing healthy food at home.”
Hydroponics means rearing veggies, fruits and non-edibles without soil. In essence, seedlings are planted in special growing trays that expose their roots. A pump then passes a solution—water mixed with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus—to the plants. Some large-scale growers boast fancy aeroponic systems that mist on a timer. At its simplest, however, a backyard hydroponic setup can involve common household items like buckets and old storage totes.
The key here is control, says Morris. Folks can dial in plant nutrition, which cuts out the guesswork associated with traditional methods. There are also major advantages in yield, water consumption, growth rates and pest and disease management. Of course, there’s that no-dirt thing too.
As a former sailor, Morris is used to that. For many years, he captained boats in Hawaii, Lake Tahoe and the Bahamas, and later delivered vessels up and down the East Coast. Despite the freedom and affordable travel, he sought grounding in 2008. Noticing that Savannah lacked specialty gardening stores, he decided to give that market a go instead.
Savannah Hydroponics and Organics was established in January, 2009. Asheville’s shop would come later in October, 2015, only after Morris met soon-to-be business partner Evan Godlesky.
“I walked into his store one day to buy garden products,” says Godlesky, a former airplane mechanic. “Less than ten years down the road, and here we are.”
Godlesky now mans the brick-and-mortar on Buck Shoals Road where mountain customers run the gamut from retired women to younger farmer dudes. Though several miles up the coast, Asheville’s shop is following a similar community-oriented business model as its Savannah counterpart. Morris, for instance, is working to collaborate with the Mills River Farmers’ Market. His Little Growers program, an initiative that lets kids get their hands dirty and grow fresh product, also continues at Bluffton Market in South Carolina. And the hydroponic and organic gardens Morris installed in regional schools? Well, they’re still producing fresh fruits and veggies too.
“We’ve had a great reception from the community,” says Morris. “We’re the only shop on the south side of town.” They plan to carry on educating locals about a hobby that pays back with delicious produce, no dirt required.
Asheville Hydroponics and Organics is located at 44 Buck Shoals Road in Arden. For more information, visit ashevillehydro.com or call 828.676.2111.