Kaufman lettuce farm near Ottawa has quadrupled in size

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OTTAWA — A gamble started nearly 20 years ago by a local farmer has paid off in the form of one of the best hydroponic farms in the region.

Bryan Kaufman, 42, opened Kaufman’s Hydroponics on O Road near Ottawa in 2003 with the goal of doing something different in local agriculture. The son of a local farming family, Kaufman is now the premier bibb lettuce supplied to the Lima area, supplying schools and local restaurants with fresh, organic lettuce year-round.

“We started with hydroponic tomatoes in 2003 and then moved to all bibb lettuce in 2005. Lettuce has been a more stable crop,” Kaufman said. “We started with a greenhouse, and we kept adding more.”

Working with his wife and children, Kaufman now runs four greenhouses — each 22 feet wide by 130 feet long — where the family grows bibb lettuce using hydroponics, a growing method more commonly associated with cannabis but used in vegetable crops around the world.

Hydroponic farming, Kaufman said, involves using only water — not soil — that supplies plant root systems with needed nutrients via a pumping or drip system. The plantation style has become more popular over the past two decades as new cultivation methods are explored and developed by the agricultural industry.

“The main reason we went with hydroponics is that you can grow your crop all year round,” Kaufman said. “You can control the environment, use no pesticides. Restaurants really like that these days.

The lettuce grown by Kaufman and his family is primarily sold to 12 local restaurants, including Kewpee restaurants in Lima, as well as local schools and Capital University in Columbus.

Getting into hydroponic farming was a change of pace for Kaufman, who graduated from high school in 1998 and worked at a local grain elevator before deciding to teach himself the ins and outs of hydroponics. hydroponic agriculture.

“I studied everything online, read books and also taught my parents. It was a learning process,” he said. my children the ins and outs My eldest son, he is in CM2, asked to learn it.

The family first grew beef steak tomatoes and organic cherry tomatoes, but Kaufman said it was a difficult business for a variety of reasons. In 2005, the company reverted solely to bibb lettuce.

This change has led to unexpected success, he noted, as the farm has exploded in business and size over the years since switching to lettuce in 2005.

“I’m thrilled to death from where I am right now (as a company),” Kaufman said. “I never thought I would be where I am today. I would like to grow more (vegetables) and expand… pass it on to the next generation and consider something other than lettuce.

Bryan Kaufman plans to pass on the family business, which was started 21 years ago by his parents, Henry and Jane Kaufman. Bryan and his children, left to right, Brynlee, Will and Grant check lettuce in one of the many rows in the greenhouse.

Hydroponic lettuce heads that are almost ready to harvest can be seen at Kaufman’s Hydroponics in Ottawa.

Bryan Kaufman grows approximately 95,000 heads of bibb lettuce each year at Kaufman’s Hydroponics in Ottawa.

Contact Jeff Forward at 567-242-0391.

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