Farm finds home behind brewery

By Will Wright

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@KernelWright

Behind the counter at Smithtown Seafood, right next to West Sixth Brewing, is something you wouldn’t expect: an indoor fish farm and garden.

Rows of lettuce, herbs and other green plants stretch all the way to the back wall, and the sound of running water is a reminder that the huge tanks  of water closest to Smithtown’s kitchen are full of tilapia.

The space belongs to FoodChain, a non-profit created in 2011 to teach kids and farmers about sustainable agriculture. The aquaponics system, which uses the tilapia tanks to water the plants, went live in 2013.

FoodChain has made a niche for themselves between Smithtown and West Sixth. It uses West Sixth’s leftover grain to feed its fish, and Smithtown uses FoodChain’s tilapia and lettuce.

“(West Sixth) has been a huge help to us,” Farm manager Leandra Forman said.

The farm sells some herbs and micrograins to other Lexington restaurants, too.

Forman said she hopes their aquaponics system, which uses much less water than traditional farms, will be an inspiration to future farmers, and a lesson to farmers struggling to water their crops.

“Traditional agriculture has, up to this point, treated water as something that will never disappear,” Forman said. “As California starts to wise up, I think this will increasingly become the answer to people’s prayers.”

In fact, FoodChain’s system uses 90 percent less water than traditional farms, Forman said.

And its economically feasible. Aquaponic systems become more profitable and the farm grows, but its also a good option for people who want to start indoor gardens in a shed or an empty barn.

“It’s a fun system; it’s a very different form of agriculture,” Forman said.

People can buy tours of FoodChain through its website, foodchainlex.org. Tours are $10 for adults and $5 for youth every Saturday at 1 p.m. Private tours are also available at various times throughout the week.