Since 2009, Evan and Autumn Overbay have used Highland Heights Farm to bring fresh produce to local restaurants and farmers markets. Now they are looking to expand on that while also offering a complete wellness plan for both companies and individuals.
The farm, located about six miles south of Frankfort at 1215 E. Co. Road 650 S. in Clinton County, grows some of the typical, seasonal vegetables that you would expect – tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, radishes, carrots, bell peppers and zucchini.
“Basically, anything that goes on a salad, we grow it,” Evan said.
But Highland Heights is not a typical farm. They are able to grow lettuce, greens and herbs year-round and bring them from seed to harvest much more quickly than they would by traditional methods.
“We specialize in an hydroponic operation, so we have two different systems,” Evan said. “But, basically, hydro is our plant that we grow without soil. All of our plants are in water 24/7, so their roots are exposed to the air. That allows faster grow times. We also don’t use pesticides or insecticides. We are free of that. Nothing ever touches the leaves. It is a very clean system.
“Our nutrient system with hydroponics is very targeted to lettuce,” he added. “So, we can really tweak what is good for the plant and really get the nutrients in there. We have very fast grow times. It is about a third faster than traditional growing in soil. So, we do a head of lettuce in about four to six weeks from seed to harvest.”
Last year, Highland Heights produced more than 13,000 head of lettuce.
“This year, with the addition of NFT (nutrient film technique), we are going to be close to about 23,000 for the year – so roughly 2,000 head a month,” Evan said.
Much of that lettuce goes to restaurants, but it also goes to local families.
“We are at restaurants (such as East End Grill and soon-to-be-opened Ripple & Company in Lafayette) and local farmers markets,” Evan said. “And then, through our CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) and our wellness program.”
Starting next month, Highland Heights will offer “WNFC12” four times a year. It stands for Wellness, Nutrition, Fitness, Community, 12 Weeks.
“It is a wellness program for corporations that want to take on a wellness program,” Evan said. “That is who we are catering to. That is not, however, who we are limited to. We are in fact advertising to individuals who want to go through that program. For us, it is an important part of life that we get everything combined.
“When we first started the farm, we believed that food is just one portion of your wellness,” he continued. “So, we have partnered with a fitness instructor and two nutritionists to bring a whole wellness package to you. It is a 12-week program. It consists of fresh produce delivery from us every week, a fitness program that is done through an app and online group fitness instruction, and the nutrition is through a web portal. That is a 12-week stepping stone program. We give recipes, but we also give a framework for the rest of your life.”
Evan said that health and wellness has always been important to him and his family.
“That is one reason why we grow,” he said. “We want our own food, and we need to know where our food is coming from. Fitness, too. Our whole family is very active. So, that was important. And then the vitamins and wellness side too. It is something we have always done and learned. And then the mental (aspect). My wife has a psychology background, and she works within DCS. That mental side of it is also important to us. This is where we combine all of them into one package.”
“We want to really grow the wellness program,” Evan said. “That is one of the big things we want to do. We want to continue to expand and grow a couple more greenhouses so we can serve more people in the area.”
During most summers, Highland Heights is also the site of a kids camp in conjunction with the Learning Network of Clinton County.
“That is another big thing we do in the summer,” Evan said. “We do two of them, and they are here for a week. It is just like any other camp. They are here for four hours, and we teach them about farm life. Every day is a different farm animal topic with them. We also hold growing workshops throughout the summer for anyone who is interested to learn.”
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