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October 1997

Non-Electric Greenhouse

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CropKing Admin
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An area man has developed a new method to make modern hydroponic technology work - without using electricity - a system which would allow the Amish to make better use of their land without infringing on or their religious beliefs and customs. David R. Schlabach of Schlabach's Nursery, 3901 C.R. 135, southwest of Walnut Creek, not only created the non-electric hydroponic system which uses pneumatics and natural gas, but he also has built more than a half-dozen of the special greenhouses in the area. It all started three years ago when Schlabach and his wife, the parents of eight children, were looking for work that their oldest children could do at or near home. The Schlabachs have about four acres of land on C.R. 135 and on that property have a small fruit tree nursery, their own garden and some pasture. But there was no room for agricultural expansion and some of the property was not suitable for farming. "Our space was limited to pursue much agriculturally," David Schlabach said. "We became aware we'd have to do something on an intensive scale. That is when we started considering Greenhouse possibilities." Historically, it was always necessary to use electricity in order to have a greenhouse. Schlabach changed all that. At first, Schlabach became interested in hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil, through books and literature. He later attended a grower's workshop seminar sponsored by CropKing Inc., a hydroponic company located in Seville. CropKing sells a greenhouse package complete with equipment and growing supplies. Schlabach had to do some convincing to get CropKing to take notice of his interest in building a greenhouse, because the Schlabachs didn't have electricity. CropKing felt it would not be possible or practical to attempt hydroponics without the automation of electric timers, fans and computerized sensors. But after several discussions, CropKing agreed to eliminate all the electrical motors, solenoids and components in the package it sold to Schlabach. Air motors, thermostats and manual controls replaced them. Now CropKing is gung ho about the future of non-electrical greenhouses. "There is significant interest in hydroponic vegetable production among the Amish communities throughout the country as it offers a way of keeping their children involved in profitable, farm-related businesses that don't require the large amounts of land that conventional agriculture does," Dan Brentlinger, president of CropKing, said.