By Will Roper
Photos by Kayla Solorzano

July 23, 2018

There’s a lot more diversity to farming in Nebraska than corn and soybeans.

On a pleasant Saturday morning, KZUM’s “How’s It Growin’” program held their  Nebraska local farm tour for a group of over 50 gardeners, farmers and enthusiasts. The tour, led by each respective farmer in cooperation How’s It Growin’ Host, Bob Henrickson, lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and visited three local, unique operations near Denton and Martell, Neb.

The first stop on the tour was Jeff Jirovec’s farm a couple of miles outside Denton. Named “Grow with the Flow,” Jirovec owns and manages the only aquaponic nursery in the state. To the farm tour participants, Jirovec showed how he raises goldfish to create bounties of cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as vibrant mixes of flowers without the need for artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. This natural form of fertilization provides a mutual relationship for both the fish and plant, with the plants benefiting from fish waste product and the fish benefiting from the plants’ natural filtration.

Jirovec said he started Grow with the Flow five years ago, and showed that many could produce similar aquaponic results in their own backyards.

“This is our fifth year, but I started several years before that,” Jirovec said. “I had a small system in my backyard, just as a hobby for several years. I had a lot of success, and I realized I had a scalable business.”

The next location on the tour was Spiritus Vitae Botanicals near Martell. Operated by Paul and Nicole Saville, Spiritus Vitae Botanicals is a modest medicinal herb farm where the duo grow a wide variety of herbs which they make into medicinal products. After receiving her degree in herbal medicine from Bastyr University in Washington, Nicole and Paul told the farm tour group that, while there were plenty of natural, herbal farms in Washington and Oregon, there weren’t too many in the Midwest. They said they decided to come down to Nebraska and start a small farm to provide people with a mix of local knowledge and products on natural medicines they couldn’t find at the drugstore.

Products the couple create include Fire Cider, which is an apple cider vinegar infused with homegrown herbs and vegetables that boosts the immune system and promotes a general well-being, and Ink & Owie, which is a natural ointment for newly formed tattoos and wounds.

The last stop on the tour was Brockley Farmaceuticals, owned and operated by Barb and Ross Brockley near Martell. After a hearty barbecue lunch, participants on the tour were treated to a tour of the Brockley farm. The uniqueness of their farm lies underground, where the pair use the technique of hugelkultur to create garden mounds that don’t need irrigation or fertilization. To do this, Ross Brockley showed how rotting logs are used to raise gardens off the ground and provide an abundance of readily available organic material for plants to use. This type of permaculture has been demonstrated to be effective in a multitude of climates, including desert, and many believe this technique could be a large factor in combating world hunger and global warming crises.

At the end of the tour, many said they learned a great deal about different plants and farming techniques they could use in their own backyards. The three stops on the farm tour were perfect for anyone looking to enhance their knowledge on lesser-known forms of farming, and Grow with the Flow, Spiritus Vitae Botanicals and Brockley Farmaceuticals also served as a very relaxing day of listening and learning.

View all photos on KZUM's Flickr or click to open each in a new window.

Catch How’s It Growin’ on KZUM; Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until Noon.

Will Roper is an editorial intern with KZUM. Kayla Solorzano is a multimedia intern with KZUM.