Hydroponic greenhouse owner: "We never stop growing"

WTVC Joan Jones, owner of Lee and Gordon Greens

A Chickamauga woman is using taking a unique approach to farming, and it's paying off.

Joan Jones owns the hydroponics greenhouse Lee and Gordons Greens. She grows lettuce year round without using any soil. She's now in her ninth year.

"We've never stopped. That's our slogan for our business we never stop growing," Jones said.

Everything is grown in water supplied with nutrients. The seeds are planted in volcanic rock called rockwool. They get transplanted into growing containers until they're ready to be picked.

On average, Joan grows seven different varieties of lettuce year round, along with several types of herbs.

The roots remain attached once picked, so the lettuce stays fresh up to two weeks.

The greenhouse supplies lettuce for 10 to 12 restaurants in Chattanooga. Joan spends about 20 hours a week in the greenhouse, on top of working a full time job. Her family also helps out because the lettuce needs constant monitoring.

"Right now looks great, everything is growing great...give me two weeks there could be an issue out here and I could have a crop that looks horrible," Jones said. "It's not always picture perfect."

The crops grow faster and use less space than traditional farmland, but she still deals with a lot of the same issues farmers do, like keeping out pests and diseases.

She also has to monitor the equipment, and make sure the nutrients are supplied in just the right amount.

"They're getting too many nutrients they will sweat them out through the leaves, so we'll know something is not right with our system and we'll start tweaking that. But that took a lot of years of watching and going 'oh that's bad' we have to throw that out."

Through the up's and down's along the way, it's community and family support that keeps her going.

"It was a struggle in the beginning because we felt like everybody would buy everything we had, but we had to do a lot of free samples, a lot of pushing, a lot of talking, and a lot of farmers markets in Atlanta and here before we kind of found our niche."

Joan sells the lettuce at the Chattanooga Market Sundays from 11 to 4.

You can watch our Homegrown series every Sunday morning at 6 and 8.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off