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Nathan Baker

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Growing operation: Downtown Farming promotes homegrown produce

July 22nd, 2014 9:56 pm by Nathan Baker

Growing operation: Downtown Farming promotes homegrown produce

Valda and Yancy Grimmett pose for a photo with some of their plants in front of Downtown Farming, located on Cherry Street. (Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)

For Downtown Farming owners Yancy and Valda Grimmett, business is growing.

After a decade dabbling in growing hydroponic produce, Yancy, with his new bride, Valda, decided to open the store last year in the former Honey-Krust Bakery on Johnson City’s Cherry Street, where they sell products for hydroponic and organic growing.

“For an urban environment, it’s really the only option,” Yancy said, standing barefoot in the store’s showroom after finishing his day at the job that allows him to support his Downtown Farming habit. “You can grow so much more in a smaller space without chemicals or pesticides.”

The basic premise of hydroponics is growing plants indoors in a nutrient and water solution using artificial light to replace the sun.

Yancy said the practice allows the grower to control nearly every factor of a plant’s environment, providing for extended seasons and larger yields.

Downtown Farming offers the systems to circulate the water solution and the grow lights to start up a hydroponic operation, as well as conventional outdoor organic gardening supplies.

So far, the reception has been welcoming, Valda said.

“When Mize closed, a lot of the people from the Tree Streets came over to us,” she said. “They didn’t want to give their money to places like Lowe’s or Home Depot. They wanted to give it to a local business.”

That initial showing gave Yancy the affirmation he needed to form big plans for the budding business.

Eventually, he hopes to have a rooftop greenhouse on the building, where customers can pick their own produce and herbs. The couple also hopes to introduce their own branded seeds collected from their gardens.

In the meantime, however, he’ll focus on what makes him happy — growing.

From a hydroponic system in the back of the shop, Yancy and Valda have supplied several downtown restaurants with fresh fruits and vegetables for their menus.

Lettuce and tomatoes grown on Cherry Street have found their way into the dishes of Buffalo Street Downtown Deli, Holy Taco and Main Street Pizza.

Main Street owner Jamie Dove, himself the new owner of an organic farm in Telford, has commissioned Yancy to set up a hydroponic operation in vacant space above the Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room, where the two aim to increase the downtown yield and the use of local produce in surrounding restaurants.

“First of all, it just tastes better,” Yancy said of local, organic produce. “But when you buy and sell locally, it’s easier to control what goes into your food and to insulate ourselves from the random factors that raise the prices of food and make us sick.

“Mass produced stuff you get in the chain supermarket is tasteless. If you pick it out of the ground yourself, you know what’s in it, plus it’s really fun.”

Valda said some people have had problems finding the downtown Johnson City store when their GPS navigation systems sent them to the Cherry Street in Gray. The couple is working to get the confusion corrected, but stressed that is just off Buffalo Street, in view of the newly opened Tupelo Honey Cafe.

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