Aquaponics Business Donates All Their Produce to Community in Response to COVID-19
"Lettuce Serve You" program by Emerge Aquaponics donates thousands of heads of lettuce a week instead of selling to the area's now-closed restaurants and universities. Emerge is giving their community the opportunity to spread hope by sharing heads of lettuce with their neighbors.
In these challenging times, our cooperative principle of Commitment to Community has greater meaning than ever before. Across our cooperative family, amazing work is being done by businesses, organizations, and individuals to support our communities in this time of need. As part of this series, we highlight those outstanding people who have gone above and beyond.
Mountain View Electric Association (MVEA) serves portions of eight counties located within a 5,000 square mile territory in Colorado. Across this service territory, many members of MVEA have been affected by COVID-19 in some way, shape or form.
In the community of Black Forest, Colo., a tough business decision leads to a unique idea of how to share hope. Emerge Aquaponics grows lettuce for area restaurants and universities. In the face of COVID-19, Emerge lost all their revenue as these businesses shut down. With thousands of heads of lettuce now available with no one to sell to, director of Emerge Aquaponics, Josh Imhoff, decided to donate all their produce to their community. But how the community supported Josh and each other was something he did not expect.
To learn how lettuce helps bring hope to this community, watch the video below.
Josh Imhoff, Director of Emerge Aquaponics, Donates Lettuce to Support Community
"When we saw our community rise up and say, we want to be a part of this, that we want to help too and bring hope, it's probably been one of the coolest things I've ever seen and been a part of." - Josh Imhoff
Josh: It was one of the most depressing times of my life because it was such a reality that we were gonna have nothing and we were gonna lose all of our revenue. And as we started to think about it, we thought about all the people that were losing their jobs and we said, well, what can we do to help?
My name's Josh Imhoff and I'm the Director of Emerge Aquaponics. My wife and I actually grew up traveling around the world, seeing the world and we saw so many people that didn't have food and so we were trying to figure out how do we actually help people sustain themselves. We ran into aquaponics and said, this is actually a really great way to do that.
So Emerge Aquaponics is a business that we started to grow vegetables but uses 90 percent less water. We can grow all around the world in drought, especially here in Colorado where we don't have a lot of water.
Once we heard about the pandemic and we heard that all of the restaurants and the universities that we were selling to were all about to shutdown, we just went into the greenhouse to figure out what to do. We have 2,700 heads of lettuce that we harvest every single week and now we have no one to sell it to.
So we said, let's try to help our community and let's give all this away. We didn't know how to do it. We didn't know what to expect. We didn't know how we were going to bag it. We didn't know any of that. And we just started going for it and started trying to make it happen.
And then we had hundreds of cars show up.
The Lettuce Serve You is what we called it. "Lettuce" serve you. So we ran out of lettuce, I think, in three hours. So they just kept saying thank you so much for bringing hope in this time. And it was just incredible.
You know, you people around the world 'cause they're in need and you don't think of your neighbor being in need. And so we started looking at the Get One, Give One. The community around us were taking lettuce and giving it to people and they were bringing hope to their neighbors.
We never thought people would line up in cars to come get lettuce, and it has nothing to do with the lettuce in my mind. They just wanted to be a part of this thing, that we were orchestrating and trying to just make happen for our community.
When we saw our community rise up and say, we want to be a part of this, that we want to help too and bring hope, it's probably been one of the coolest things I've ever seen and been a part of.
COVID-19 Community Response
As a family of electric cooperatives and public power districts, our distribution members reach consumers at the end of the line, many of whom have been directly impacted by COVID-19. To learn about our response, how are members are responding and the amazing work being done in communities across the West, watch our videos and read the articles here.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 46 members, including 43 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.