Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge boosts recognition, support for Pulaski Grow
By Lee Spiegel, Pulaski Grow
Right now Pulaski Grow is, well, growing!
When we first entered the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, we were busy rehabbing our office and training space in an abandoned county building on the old Draper Elementary School (in Pulaski County, Virginia) and had not even started working on the greenhouse or the fish tank area for our aquaponics business.
Today we have a finished office and training area that is furnished and ready to go. Our tank area in about 60 percent insulated and paneled and we will be finishing a passive solar wall in the next two weeks. A team of volunteers has raised all 16 greenhouse bows for our 22’ x 60’ greenhouse and we put greenhouse film on February 14.
We will be growing most of our produce vertically in 240 Zipgrow vertical farming towers to maximize our space and heat. These towers will be used to grow lettuces, greens and herbs. We will also be building eight floating beds to try our hand at growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
Today, I am heading to a networking meeting with area farmers and buyers to determine what we want to grow to meet the needs of restaurants and businesses looking for fresh local produce. We will combine that information with previous survey results and then begin planting our first seeds!
In looking back at how far Pulaski Grow has come as a business since writing our first pitch for the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, I am truly blown away. Our vision was honed and message made more succinct. In writing and sharing our dream, our passion and belief in our mission was stoked to new levels.
The unique aspect of strong community support and participation that we have here in Pulaski County and southwest Virginia has expanded and strengthened throughout the Challenge process. The publicity, both nationally and locally, has brought excitement and recognition to our community, as well as our business, which has been wonderful. Our volunteer numbers have grown even larger and we continue to have fabulous support from the county, local businesses and agencies, as well as a wide range of people that just want to help us succeed.
The $15,000 finalist award has allowed us to purchase the additional supplies and materials needed to bring the first greenhouse into operation and provided our trainees with unprecedented skill building opportunities.
We are excited to see the advancements in Pulaski Grow since the beginning of the Challenge and look forward to the future!