07 5 / 2013
The outside of Hope Plaza, the building that hosts Christ Central Ministries headquarters’, boasts an ambiance of tranquility and calmness, but once you get through the hallways to home of Jah Roots Food, an entirely different environment unfolds. Once you step inside, you’re transported to a garden wonderland full of lush green herbs, colorful produce, and the sound of babbling water as it runs through it all. Jah Roots Food is an urban hyrdroponic garden that provides sustainably grown herbs and vegetables right here in Columbia, SC.
The inspiration for the business came from its owner and CEO, Scott Harriford. After researching and successfully building a hydroponics garden for his senior class project in high school, Harriford managed to turn his passion for growing sustainable, healthy food into a thriving business. Despite already owning a successful business, Harriford graduated from high school only 2 years ago. That’s right; this successful and innovative business owner is just sophomore at the University of South Carolina. With help from his father and USC’s Business Incubator program, Harriford is providing vendors of the midlands with healthy, local food.
Harriford runs his fingers over a giant basil leaf growing in a shallow plastic bin placed above a large fish tank. “I’ve been really lucky to have the resources I do,” he says, “Jah Roots Food would never be where it is without the help of my dad and the support from the Incubator.” The USC Business Incubator is a non-profit corporation sponsored by USC, the City of Columbia and area governments, and materially supported by businesses and private donors. Since its inception in November 1998, the Incubator has provided opportunities for entrepreneurs like Harriford to commercialize their ideas, produced successful, financially viable and freestanding businesses, and created hundreds of additional jobs in the community.
The Incubator helps Jah Roots Food run the business side of the company; they provide things like Internet and phone, business and marketing consultants, and office space. Harriford’s dad is also a large part of Jah Roots Foods. “I help Scott with a little bit of everything. Mostly the managerial parts of running a business, but also in some of the labor that goes into actually growing everything,” he says, “but none of this would be possible without Scott’s passion for aquaponics and sustainable food.”
Aquaponics sounds like a complex system, but Harriford explains it like he’s been doing it his whole life. Simply put, it’s a synergistic growing technique in which fish and plants are grown together in the same systems. The fish waste feeds the growing plants using organic hydroponic techniques. The plants, in turn, clean and filter the water that returns to the fish environment. Suddenly the fish tanks underneath the bins full of food made much more sense. “It’s more than just a really cool way to grow food, though,” Harriford elaborates, “not only is the Slow Food movement important to educate people about local and sustainable farming, but it’s got a really strong following here in Columbia.”
Jah Roots Food provides ingredients to many local restaurants. Some of their most recent partners include Chef Fluvio of Ristorante Divino and Chef George of IL Giorgione. All of their restaurant partners boast sustainable food practices. In addition, Jah Roots Food also sells their ingredients commercially. “That was one of the executive decisions I didn’t hesitate to make. Working with chefs and grocery stores is the ultimate goal, but I want everything we grow here to be available to the general public as well,” Harriford explains. “Something that is good for you and your community shouldn’t be withheld from anyone.”
The urban farm grows a variety of herbs and produce, from cabbage to spinach and basil to garlic. Since the products are grown indoors through a sustainable process, their ingredients are always fresh and always in season. Another big plus is the food from Jah Roots has no genetic modification, no herbicides or pesticides, and is sold at competitive prices. “This project means so many things to me,” Harriford looks around at his farm, an earnest tone taking over. “It’s important to me as an entrepreneur to keep my business running successfully, it’s important to me as a native Columbian to provide the best possible product to my community, and it’s important to me as an individual because I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears into it.”
Jah Roots Food is a farm in the middle of a capital city, it’s run by a college student who hasn’t even reached the upper division of his classes, and it’s a company that’s doing good for its community. Defying conventional wisdom is what Jah Roots Food is all about, one head of cabbage at a time.
30 4 / 2013
29 4 / 2013
27 4 / 2013
26 4 / 2013
17 4 / 2013
16 4 / 2013