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DFW aquaponic gardeners have multiple learning opportunities this weekend

Green Phoenix Farms, a Metroplex aquaponics education and consulting firm, will launch its 2014 schedule of classes this coming weekend, Jan. 18 and 19, at its seminar facility located at 2636 National Circle, Garland, Texas 75041. This marks the inaugural "back-to-back" class schedule, responding to student demand for a concentrated, intensive learning experience, according to President Adam Cohen.

Beginning at 9 a.m., the Saturday schedule includes AP 101, An Introduction to Aquaponics, followed from 2 to 4 p.m. by Plant Basics for Aquaponics.

The introductory course has been a popular Green Phoenix Farms class, taught monthly during much of 2013. Cohen, who serves as instructor, hold degrees in marine biology and marine fisheries from Texas A&M University, and has been involved in teaching, consulting and installing aquaponics systems in the Metroplex area for the past five years. He is a popular speaker for garden clubs, schools and community groups, operates several demonstration systems in the area, and serves as vice president of the national Aquaponics Association which has headquarters in Denver.

Those who attend classes receive a complementary membership in the Dallas Chapter of that association, including an invitation to participate in a monthly free idea exchange. The popularity of aquaponic gardening, which utilizes a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants, with each nourishing the other, has become a nationwide phenomenon. The systems may also be adapted for large-scale production, and aquaponics systems can be successful either indoors or out.

The afternoon class on plants will focus on effective and efficient methods of growing vegetables in an aquaponic system here in North Texas, and how to maximize plant health and productivity. The session is designed primarily for those who operate backyard or hobby systems, and interactive discussion is encouraged. Sources for seeds, including heirloom varieties, will also be discussed.

Sunday classes include a morning session, How to Design a Custom Aquaponic System, from 9 a.m. until 12 noon, with an afternoon Workshop Session allowing hands-on learning, from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants in the workshop will actually construct a small system using lumber and pond liner, and will receive a manual detailing all required materials and the steps involved.

The design class will focus on custom design for the advanced student, and will involve detailed instruction of the considerations and calculations necessary to provide for optimum efficiency, both for fish and for plant production.

The building workshop which is the fourth and final session of the weekend, has evolved from the experience of building and operating numerous systems of various design. While DIY options utilizing readily-available containers and parts exist for small systems, Cohen offers this "built from scratch" alternative as a possible choice for those who want to explore custom installations.

Participants may enroll separately for sessions on either day, or may attend all four weekend classes at a discounted rate. Enroll and pay for classes online, or contact Green Phoenix Farms for more details.

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