Veteran set to build greenhouse

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Linda Miralles, of Centreville, is breaking ground in the Heart of Virginia in more ways than one.

Miralles, who goes by the nickname “Farmer Louie,” is building a greenhouse for raising produce on a 5-acre parcel of land off of Ca Ira Road on the Buckingham and Cumberland county line.

Linda Mirralles

She wants the greenhouse and its produce to help veterans.

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Miralles is a member of Veterans to Farmers organization based in Colorado. She served as a medic for the Air Force between 1981-86, traveling to Japan, California and Florida, among other places.

She wants to use her experience both as a veteran and a farmer to give veterans in the Heart of Virginia the opportunity to cultivate a new skill.

Miralles, the third-generation veteran whose two sons are also service members, plans to donate the produce to area schools among other vendors and host tours at the greenhouse for students and those participating in 4-H programming.

“I know if there’s anybody who can do it, it’s me,” Miralles said, who also worked for more than a decade as a production runner for Live Nation, which assists rock and alternative musicians who perform in concert venues in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

The tranquil nature of the land, with sounds from a nearby highway in the background, is markedly different she said from the noise she experienced through her service and at her home near Washington D.C.

Farming wasn’t something Miralles considered until she heard about the program Veterans to Farmers program when she considered expanding her home garden and learning more organic practices.

“It’s a great program,” Miralles said. “It changed my life.”

She had recently remarried that Memorial Day, and by July 4 she traveled to Denver, Colorado to take a six-week course in learning how to build and run greenhouses.

She recently got a spot with this year’s Farm Aid Conference in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. During the conference, Miralles, her husband and Veterans to Farmers Program Manager Richard Murphy, built a 10-foot by 12-foot greenhouse that uses a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system, which grows lettuce through a water solution in tubes, within six hours.

She hopes to bring the skills she’s learned during the conference to build a greenhouse in Buckingham through a $100,00 grant with Kaiser Permanente, which was awarded to the Veterans to Farmers program, giving stipends to students.

Miralles said she chose this property over several others in the area and has gotten to work clearing the land for the 35-foot by 150-foot foot greenhouse.

She said the greenhouse will have polycarbonate walls and two layers of plastic for the roof.

Miralles said she will work to use organic practices in making the produce as fresh and free of pesticides as possible.

She said she has spent approximately $40,000 so far for the greenhouse, with other items being donated.

It’s a lot of work, Miralles said. But she hopes it will be worth the effort.

“It’s going to be done,” Miralles said. 

The greenhouse, Miralles said, is called a hydroponic in nature, using water instead of soil to thrive.

She is also looking to convert the hydroponic greenhouse into an aquaponic greenhouse, where aquatic life will also be included in the water-based system. The produce will feed from the fish waste, and the produce will provide food for the fish.

Saying she “hates landfills with a passion,” Miralles keeps what she can, using the wood she has cleared for the property to create a compost pile called a Hügelkultur, which she hopes will create rich soil for future planting.

She also raises honeybees on the property and stays for days at a time with her husband in a Recreational Vehicle (RV) they use.

Miralles said farming could be a way to help veterans and offer them a community seeking a single goal.

“It’s the busy hands concept,” Miralles said. “(It will) all be therapeutic. Maybe I can bring baby goats once a year, whatever it takes.”

Miralles cited that veterans die daily from suicide.

“They have nothing to do, no sense of where to go. Let’s have them be farmers,” Miralles said. “Give them a reason to not feel that way. Let’s feed the world while we’re at it.”