Hydroponic garden business flourishing in South Dakota

South Dakota News

PUKWANA, S.D. (KELO) – There are no days off for Mark and Teal Scholl.

“Gotta make hay when the sun’s shining,” Happy Hydros Owner Mark Scholl said.

The husband and wife spend a countless number of hours planting, nurturing, harvesting and delivering their produce.

But you won’t find any dirt in their greenhouse in Pukwana.

It’s a hydroponic operation.

“The roots don’t have to go through the soil to find nutrients. We feed them right to them,” Scholl said.

That’s something that drew skepticism when the two first got into business about 11 years ago.

“Most people said, ‘If you don’t grow it in the dirt you can’t grow it,’” Scholl said.

The Scholls even had trouble securing a business loan early on.

It took more than a year before a bank agreed to take a chance on the business partners.

“We finally found one bank that said, ‘It’s really outside the box,’ but he said it wasn’t that long ago you couldn’t grow wheat west of the river either,” Scholl said.

The two started Happy Hydros by just growing tomatoes.

Then they added lettuce, another move that didn’t take off right away.

“The growth wasn’t right. I didn’t understand it right. If it wasn’t an iceberg piece of lettuce people didn’t want it around here,” Scholl said.

But chefs in the region started showing interest in the Scholls’ lettuce.

Michael Haskett has been serving the Scholl’s lettuce and other vegetables at his downtown Sioux Falls restaurant M.B. Haskett for years.

“We’ve been with Happy Hydros long enough that I can’t remember exactly how we first found them,” M.B. Haskett Owner Michael Haskett said

They grow other produce too, including cucumbers, which is their most popular item right now.

Happy Hyros produces about 225,000 pounds of food each year.

But the success doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“Each year is different. You don’t know if it’s going to be a good year or a bad year. It’s just like farming,” Scholl said.

Strong winds devastated the Scholls’ operation on Father’s Day of 2015.

Two bays in the greenhouse were taken out by the storm, destroying the entire crop.

“We were just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and then it just kind of closed shut. Whenever you have a good year and you think you’re going to make it something happens,” Scholl said.

But through the hardships, the family has shown their once risky business venture could feed the demand for locally grown and produced foods in South Dakota.

“It’s just something to be very proud of, using local ingredients,” Haskett said.

“It’s good to know your farmer. When you can shake your farmer’s hand that’s a good thing,” Scholl said.

That’s how food travels straight from the farm to your table.

The Scholls also own a processing facility called Grandma D’s Kitchen.

Not only do they make their own products including salsa, but they also do the co-packing for other businesses.

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