Coushatta Indians implement old growing technique

Coushatta hydroponics

ALLEN PARISH, LA (KPLC) - The Coushatta Indian Tribe recently began experimenting with an old form of crop growing: hydroponics.

Hydroponics dates back to around the 1930s. It's a form of crop growing that uses just nutrient water and bees for pollination.

No soil. No pesticides or insecticides. Just water.

Over 6,000 heads of romaine lettuce line the walkways of one hydroponic greenhouse. The other houses 1,600 tomato plants. But you won't find their roots feeding in soil.

That's right, just water, nutrient water infused with minerals like Epsom salt and magnesium sulfate. The process is old, but members of the Coushatta tribe decided to revive it.

"This has been around for awhile, so the people of the tribe decided to do hydroponics," said Gardner Rose who manages the natural resources on the reservation. "We just took off with it."

They are the first tribe to own and operate hydroponic greenhouses, bringing a little glory to tribe members.

"Very positive," said Rose. "Everyone's excited about it and they're proud we're putting out a good product."

So do these vegetables taste the same as ones grown in soil?

"That's what they tell me," said Rose. "They say it's as good as or better than a regular garden tomato or garden lettuce."

Boxed beehives are located in the greenhouses allowing the bees to do the pollinating.
In the near future, the tribe is adding natural herbs and even eggplant to their crops. Hopefully they will grow as well as the first round of lettuce and tomatoes.

"We got lucky it worked the first time," said Rose. "It's been a big learning curve for us, a big process."

The greenhouses are solar powered through panels on the roof. The Department of Energy gave the tribe a 25,000 grant to fund the project.

The hydroponic vegetables can be purchased at the reservation on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-12 and 1-3.

Two dollars is the going price for one pound of tomatoes or a head of lettuce.

The proceeds are going into the Coushatta heritage fund, which will help recent efforts to restore the tribal language.

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