OD Greens is a newcomer to the Heart of Willoughby Outdoor Market in 2019. Certified by Homegrown by Heroes, Don Tobul, MA LPC, sells hydroponically grown greens including seven types of lettuce and three types of basil — , Italian, lemon, and Thai. He hopes to introduce micro greens, wasabi arugula, and lavender.
The whole project has its roots in Don’s rural childhood in Leroy township. As a pre-teen and teen, he was involved in 4-H and had strong interests in gardening, agriculture and the sciences. This interest led him to formal training as a high school chemistry and physics teacher at Bowling Green State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Science Education.
During his time at BGSU, he was also a member of the Ohio Army National Guard. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Don found himself on active duty in Iraq from January 2004 through March 2005. His experiences in Iraq, and working with friends in the military, steered him in a new direction. Don began working on his master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at John Carroll University in 2010, interned at the Cleveland Clinic and finished that program in 2013.
Don sees OD Greens as the perfect combination of his life experiences with the potential to help more people. He started growing greens in a 40-foot shipping container which offers the equivalent two traditionally farmed acres.
“Because we grow vertically our footprint is significantly reduced,” he says “Also, we recycle the water pulled from the air, reducing our water use to 10 percent of the demands of traditional farming.” Pesticides are not part of production.
As the project grows, he plans to incorporate work-training services for other disabled veterans, using hydroponic growing as a platform for their experiential education and personal/professional development.
“As a combat veteran myself, I noticed that agriculture has a place in therapy and mental health,” he says. “Agriculture at this scale is a perfect metaphor for mental health in that it takes planning, practice, and flexibility. However, even if you do everything perfectly as the farmer, something outside of your control can negatively impact what it is that you are growing. Such is life.”
“OD Green hopes to illustrate this through the growing component, and teach the skills necessary to adjust to – and overcome obstacles as they arise in farming and in life.”
“Homegrown by Heroes” is an official farmer-veteran branding program. The label tells consumers that the agricultural products were produced by U.S. military veterans and are certified by the organization.