Paleface Feed & Garden Supply

Local shop pushes for non-GMO, sustainable food

When Gary Hoffman and his wife, Karen, purchased Paleface Feed & Garden Supply Aug. 1, they revamped the supply store.

"We took the store and repainted it, put new signs up, brought in different product lines and then started getting into the green side of things."

Hoffman began looking into non-genetically modified organisms (GMO), feeds and products along with sustainable options for the average person, he said. His curiosity lead him to delve into aquaponics, a sustainable food production system that combines raising aquatic animals, or aquaculture, with cultivating plants in water, or hydroponics, to create a symbiotic environment.

While Hoffman has only been involved in aquaponics since November, he said he has gleaned a lot from Rob Nash, owner and operator of HannaLeigh Farm in Spicewood, who has been practicing aquaponics for more than seven years.

"He helped me get into the business," Hoffman said of Nash. "He is my mentor. I'm the storefront guy because I have the store [on Hwy. 71]. He has his own customers, he teaches classes, he helped write the book on aquaponics. He is one of the biggest gurus in Austin as far knowledge and productivity.

"As we learn about [aquaponics], we learn about how poor the food is at the grocery store. It's processed, hydrogenated, you name it. This area of Austin has become extremely green," Hoffman said. "They are getting very educated about GMO products."

Hoffman said that not only do the plants and vegetables grow larger than those grown in a traditional garden, but they also grow up to five times faster.

Aquaponics systems are so much more productive than traditional gardens that it just makes sense to use them, he said.

"The beauty of growing [plants] in a controlled environment like your home is that you can grow year-round," he said.

In addition to selling aquaponics systems, the supply store sells feeds, seeds, supplements, live traps, dog and cat food, stable supplies and other items.

The aquaponics systems are priced individually to fit each customer's needs, Hoffman said.

Hoffman said he sees these backyard systems will take off during the next few years and Austinites embracing a greener lifestyle than they already do.

"It just makes sense to me," Hoffman said.

How aquaponics works

Plants are grown in tanks that are filled with shale, gravel or crushed granite to hold the nutrient-rich water. There is no soil involved, and the beds act as a filter for the water in which aquatic animals live. During the filtering process, the waste from the fish tank is used to feed the plants. The grow beds where the plants are maintained contain red wiggler worms that convert the fish waste into worm castings, which are dissolved by the water that feeds the plants. The cycle allows for the tremendous growth rate for the plants.

Paleface Feed & Garden Supply, 21120 W. Hwy. 71, Spicewood, 512-264-3925, www.palefacefeedandgarden.com