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New year could bring a boost for hydroponic business in Hill County

Posted at 2:04 PM, Jan 02, 2023

Inside the greenhouse at High Horizon Gardens, a hydroponic business just outside Havre, there are around 3,000 heads of lettuce growing.

While that may seem like a big number, it’s actually what would be considered a smaller operation. But that doesn’t make it any less important, especially at the beginning of the new year.

"Hydroponics is agriculture where you use water to grow your crops,” explained Cody Miles, co-owner of High Horizon Gardens.

Growing is a year-round business for Miles and his wife Aricka Turner.

"We use what's called a nutrient film technique, NFT, where it takes a small amount of water as you can see here that runs down into the channel,” Miles said, demonstrating how the system used to water the lettuce works.

Growing year-round means being able to help supply the demand from people wanting to be health conscious in the new year.

"A lot of the restaurants here, they do take up, probably, 99 percent of our product as well the grocery stores like 2J's in Great Falls. (In) January, we do see a spike in sales sometimes because people do get that 'I want to be a healthier eater,’” Miles explained.

Cody Miles

The growing actually starts inside the couple's basement.

"We have ideal growing conditions in here,” Miles said as he overlooked the seeds growing in the basement. “The temperature, humidity. Not only that is we keep our seedlings out of the greenhouse in case something happens in there."

Back out in the greenhouse, Aricka said the business is important for more than just helping people achieve a new year's resolution.

"We also sell to Havre Public Schools, so the kids have been introduced to a fresh, locally grown product. The community's noticed a difference and they let us know how much they appreciate what we do,” she said.

"We sell what is called raw vegetables,” Miles noted. “So according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal regulations we are not allowed to wash our vegetables which is actually a good thing because we don't expose them to that excessive reused water where some of these contaminations do come from."

The business is also important to the couple.

"There's no fresh produce, especially in the wintertime. You're not going to find it up in Montana, it's fact. So that's what we wanted to do, give back to the community,” Aricka said.

Lettuce is harvested once a week and replanted with the seeds grown in the basement.