US (CT): Nonprofit agency opens hydroponic farm to generate revenue

Ten years ago, New Opportunities President and CEO Dr. James H. Gatling wanted to fund his organization in a sustainable way, with less dependence on grants and donations, which were dropping off.

His first brainstorm was to build a fish farm, an idea that evolved into a hydroponic farm for herbs and greenhouse vegetables. Eventually, the agency settled on a plot of land on Technology Park Drive.

New Opportunities, a nonprofit community action agency in Waterbury with offices throughout Connecticut including in Torrington, welcomed about 100 guests to the farm at 360 Technology Park Drive Tuesday morning to unveil the Patricia H. Mayfield Hydroponic Center.

After its groundbreaking in 2020, the opening of the greenhouse represents the initial round of a multimillion-dollar program that will create new funding streams for New Opportunities and new jobs for northwest Connecticut residents. New Opportunities served more than 67,000 clients last year.

The Technology Park Drive property has the capacity to accommodate more than 35 greenhouses and a distribution center, as markets expand. It didn’t start out that way, however. “The whole purpose of our idea was to generate revenue,” Gatling said. “Our funding was cut back, and we needed to keep funding our programs. When we started with a fish farm, we learned a lot; we found out we’d make more money with plants, so that’s what we did.

“We first tried to do it in an old factory building, but we realized it wasn’t big enough,” he said. “Then we came to this spacious, beautiful place. I was so excited. Torrington helped us when everyone said we were crazy. They helped us develop a business plan so we could make this a reality.

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