Mac Ahnen did not endeavor to grow greens or anything else hydroponically; he simply wanted to add 100% organic greens to his menu. He started using spices that were difficult to find. Initially he grew rare peppers and plants that he would dehydrate and grind to get the spices he desired. As gardening became his passion, Mac reached out to nearby Madison for purchases and information. He read a lot of books. Mac soon discovered Paradigm Gardens in Madison. He says he spent a lot of time there and acquired a wealth of information about hydroponic gardening, so much so that they wanted to hire him. Skeptical at first, Mac eventually became a believer in the hydroponic method.
Hydroponics, Mac explains, is a step beyond organic growing. Because the conditions are completely controlled, he says, it is 100% pure. Even things we might not consider, such as exhaust fumes near the garden or impurities in our water, are eliminated for hydroponically grown vegetables. The next step, of course, was to grow his own hydroponic vegetables. He built a scale model of the system, tested it out, and then built the system he now uses.
A large, sealed, climate controlled room is required, which Mac created in the lower level of his parents’ home. The system alone is 21′ x 7′, and includes a 100 gallon tank. The air is purified with a carbon filter. The water is purified by a reverse osmosis system. There is no need, in the enclosed environment, for insecticides or herbicides. The plants obtain nutrition from natural substances, such as a kelp product.
While Mac works primarily independently, he credits his parents with their help, providing the space for his system. Friend Bonnie Kness helps with cutting, bagging, and selling.
By all accounts, the lettuce sold at Mr. Hydro’s table is as tasty as it is nutritious. He usually sells out, so his many returning customers know to come early. Stop by and meet Mac. Try his lettuce in your next salad. You’ll be back for more!