Abundant Harvest Community Garden

Colorado Man Builds Community Garden from Scratch with Help from Donated IT

If you met Charles Hendrix five years ago, you would have never guessed that today he would be championing aquaponics. Neither would he. When the economy crashed in 2008, Hendrix knew the time had come to sell his Colorado-based sports memorabilia business. In his spare time, he began volunteering at a local food bank. After watching the same people come in every day, he knew there must be a more sustainable way to tackle food insecurity and decided to take action. Through a combination of dumpster diving and perusing construction sites for unused material, Hendrix and a small team of volunteers managed to create the nonprofit organization Abundant Harvest Community Garden (AHCG), in 2010.

Built on two acres of donated land from a local church, the garden produced 2,200 pounds of produce in its first year and doubled its yield in the second year. However, in 2012, no amount of resourcefulness could have protected AHCG from one of the worst droughts in Colorado's history. Water prices skyrocketed. Unable to pay the rising water bill Hendrix lost 80 percent of his crops within three months. Hope seemed lost until he was introduced to aquaponics, a food production system that symbiotically combines aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in water).

Awed by the possibilities, Hendrix returned to AHCG. He managed to scrape together the necessary resources, and in September 2013, the AHCG aquaponics farm planted its first crops. Exhilarated but still cognizant of the financial troubles caused by the drought, he turned to TechSoup and Intuit's QuickBooks for help. "When I dealt with the realities that I was literally a one-man-show, I knew I had to be a lot more efficient and keep immaculate financial records," says Hendrix. Now with AHCG's finances in order, he expects that the new aquaponics farm will produce 50,000 to 75,000 pounds of food annually, 30 percent of which will be donated to local food banks.