Through the business innovations of aquaponics and greenhouse growing, Main Street Farms is able to grow fresh and sustainable food locally and all year round in the Upstate New York area. Aquaponics is an innovation that combines aquaculture, or raising fish, with hydroponics, or growing plants without the use of soil. Main Street Farms also serves as an education center by providing educational programming to local schools, colleges, and other community organizations.
St. John's University
The major business innovation of Main Street Farms is the use of its aquaponics system. This innovation is significant as it allows the business to grow fresh fruits and vegetables all year round in Upstate New York. As a result of the elimination of the use of soil, the fruits and vegetables must gain their nutrients through another source. They gain the nutrients needed to grow from the waste of fish in a tank below through the aquaponics system. Furthermore, Main Street Farms is constantly innovating and growing, as the owners understand that staying stagnant is not an option for them. Another recent innovation is the use of passive solar greenhouses. Bobcat excitedly revealed that through this method of greenhouse growing, "We put away about 70-80,000 pounds of carrots just in the last two months, that are to be stored all winter long."
Additionally, both owners have been influenced by their prior educational backgrounds to continually advance their business. One of the partners, a local teacher, developed a program for kids in the area to come to the farm and learn about organic farming. This program became such a success that the owners realized that they would be able to educate the community while promoting their farm. Even now, Main Street Farms is transforming the farming industry as they seek to grow hemp for production of fiber, a currently untapped market here in New York State. "The sky's the limit" for Main Street Farms, according to Bobcat, as he and his co-owner promise to continue innovating as long as their business is making a difference in people's lives.
The inspiration for Main Street Farms stems from the owners’ recognition of children eating unhealthy snacks and being unaware of the benefits of eating healthy fruits and vegetables. As the owners were both educators prior to starting Main Street Farms, they saw this in their day-to-day activities and wanted to do something about it. The co-owner, Bobcat, stated, "We were able to see firsthand the connection of food and how it was affecting the kids we taught from learning." This was what inspired one of the partners to start the farm after seeing all of this as an educator. Shortly after, Bobcat was asked by his current partner to help. Since then, the owners continue to innovate and strive to make sure that the farm is doing the most it can to help educate the community.
As a business that follows a community-based agriculture model, Main Street Farms’ overall impact on the community is strong. Not only does the innovation allow individuals of the communities surrounding the farm to consume fresh food all year round, but Main Street Farms also educated those in the community. They provide educational programs to local schools and other community organizations to help kids become knowledgeable in the importance of eating vegetables and staying healthy. The impact that they continue to have on the community is immense, and it is evident through the amount of admiration the customers have for the farm.
The innovation of Main Street Farms has greatly benefited the company in a business aspect. Since aquaponics and greenhouse growing allow Main Street Farms to grow food that is organic, fresh, and sustainable all year round, they receive a great deal of business even in the winter months. Main Street Farms also has very close relationships with their customers, which increases their business. The owners are very involved with their customers as they travel to the Syracuse Regional Market almost every weekend, which allows them to develop these strong relationships with customers while the customers choose what items they want each week. The owners also believe this is beneficial as customers refer to them as “their farmers" and have the pleasure of knowing them on a more personal level.
There are many societal and environmental benefits of the innovations by Main Street Farms. The environment benefits because Main Street Farms has developed a way to grow fresh food all year round without the use of any chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Main Street Farms also cover-crops their fields to build the soil and prevent erosion. The benefits to society consist of the quality of the food they consume and their knowledge learned through Main Street Farms’ educational programs. The fruits and vegetables are so fresh that they have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than those you would buy in the grocery store. Children and other members of the community are educated on the importance of eating fresh vegetables through the programs given to local schools and other community organizations by Main Street Farms. The societal and environmental benefit is evident; as Bobcat explained, "We're in a business where we can really feel good about what we do at the end of the day. We are making a difference in people's lives, making our community healthy, putting money into the local economy by creating jobs, and farming organically, which is more sustainable and better for the environment."
Rob "Bobcat" Bonagura, Owner and Farm Manager
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Upstate, New York, NY, United States
Business Website: https://mainstreetfarms.com/
Year Founded: 2011
Number of Employees: 11-50