Sarasota Natives Start Hydroponic Farm from Scratch
Published: Friday, October 23, 2015 at 4:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 23, 2015 at 4:28 p.m.

By Carrie Seidman

Two years ago Sarah Whannel and Mike Baker, then living in Boca Raton, decided to chuck their jobs — hers as an office manager, his doing maintenance on yachts — and return to Sarasota where they’d grown up, to be closer to family. They were both ready for a career change. But what, exactly, would that career be?

For reasons that are a little nebulous — other than Baker thinking “it would be fun” — they settled on creating a farm on 7 ½ acres of Myakka cow pasture that had no well, no electricity and not a single improvement. And because Baker wasn’t interested in traditional farming or “being bent over in the dirt all day,” they decided everything would be grown hydroponically — that is, without soil.

“It’s been a long road,” says Baker, 30, peering out from under the brim of a coolie hat at several huge greenhouse structures behind the metal-roofed house where he and Whannel, 28, now live. “When we started two years ago, other than sunflowers in our backyard, we had no experience in growing anything.”

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