Community Voices - Tyler Gogolek

TylerGogolekinHydropinicGarden2Tyler Gogolek is a hydroponic farmer who lives and works with his family in Oberlin, OH. He has over twenty years of growing experience with garden mums and produce and is committed to sustainable farming practices. In January of 2014, Tyler attended a hydroponic grower training where he learned the systems of hydroponic crop growing and produced his first crop in February of 2015. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil. This method of farming offers sustainability through water conservation because the water is constantly recirculating and uses 70-80 percent less water than traditional soil farming methods. Tyler's Farm's mums and produce are available at farmer's markets in Northern Ohio as well as local restaurants and retail locations.

Q: How is it you came to live and work in Oberlin?

A: Very simple. I was looking for a piece of land. I saw this property with the tree lines and fell in love and bought it. I had no ideas that I'd ever be married or have kids or anything, and all that just fell in place afterward.

Q: How did you decide to create your hydroponic garden?

A: Well I've been growing for twenty-plus years. The flower industry took a big hit at the advent of 911. After that, the farm market and the pop-up tent farm market started making an appearance. And that transitioned my flower sales from wholesale to retail, which helped out a lot. But then, we also started recently noticing a decline in flower sales. It has become more of an impulse buy, rather than a necessity. Because I can grow pretty well, my wife and I decided to take the food route and put this endeavor together. We finished in December of 2014 and our first crop was this year, in February 2015. It's been a lot of learning curves since. Everybody needs food and we are doing our part in providing healthy choices for the food that you buy.

Q: Some people use the word "sustainability" to mean actions that enhance/maintain the economic, environmental and social welfare of the Oberlin community. The Climate Action Plan defines it as "policies, decisions, and actions that meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (7). What does sustainability mean to you?

A: Sustainability-- a lot of people use as a marketing tool. We actually practice it. So we're conserving water with hydroponic farming where we use 1/10th of the water of a conventional crop. We use 1/3 the conventional fertilizers. We understand that it takes generations to make changes, but we are doing our part right now to at least reduce. The water system is closed so there's no runoff, so we're reusing it constantly until we decide to replenish it. It is a slow process, but we are always open to new ideas. We would love to incorporate a wind-turbine. I don't think solar panels would be the key, but I think wind-turbine would aid with some electricity down the road. There are many possibilities to sustainability and we're open to every avenue that we approach.

Q: What actions are you [your business or organization] engaged in that relate to sustainability? (i.e. water conservation, electric conservation, local spending, education, services, and/or products as an example.)

A: I think water conservation is one of the biggest things right now. Let's not waste what we have and find ways to utilize it in the best way. And that's what hydroponic does.

Q: Why do you think these actions are important?

A: They are important because being just off of Lake Erie with all that fresh water, you take for granted what other peoples don't have. And you look at places like California--they had water, but they won't reuse it. There's a problem there. I don't see a problem with reusing water and filtrating it properly and such. They're quickly realizing that their ways have to change or they are not going to make it. And then places like Arizona, they rely on things like canals to bring the water in. And there, they have peak and nonpeak hours of which you can use water. We take access to fresh water for granted over here on the East Coast, but in places that really need it, I think the awareness needs to be heightened for us, as well. Just because we have it, don't flaunt it.

Q: Is there anything you would like to tell your fellow community members regarding care for the environment/sustainable living and respect for nature?

A: Just care. You can't stop litterbugs, but if we all bend over to pick up a piece of trash here and there to throw it out, that would help. Reduce, don't waste. Be more conscious of what you are doing. I'm not saying make drastic changes, but be aware. Have an awareness. We need this environment to be around for a while.

Q: What word(s) or image(s) would you use to describe Oberlin?

A: Vibrant and growing.

Q: Is there a reason you chose those words?

A: Well, I say that because come fall every year we have a new batch of college students with brand new ideas and hopes and desires for their lives. So I think that adds to the mix. By the time they are seniors though, they have a grasp of what they really want, which sort of keeps things in check. But I honestly think that Oberlin is vibrant and growing because of all of the ideas that come out of the college and the community.

Q. Are there other people in the community that you think we should interview about their commitment to sustainability or sustainable actions in their life?

A: We have lived here for some years now, but we have never really been involved like we are right now. I am a new venture and am just starting to learn everyone, but I would say The Oberlin Project has been very helpful to us and introduced us to many new people and businesses. The Oberlin Project is the ones that I would recommend right off the bat.

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Carolyn is a fourth-year Studio Art major at Oberlin College and is originally from Boston, Massachusetts. She works as an editor of one of the school's newspapers during the school year and is excited to be working for Environmental Dashboard this summer as a research fellow.

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Carolyn Burnham
Carolyn is a fourth-year Studio Art major at Oberlin College and is originally f
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