First post: A little about us, and me (Brian)

Posted by Brian Simard on

Hi, my name is Brian, and I am the head of hydroponics at Cleatus Farms in Middletown, New York. As my first post, I'm going to introduce myself and this company (in story form, because bullet-points are nice, but boring), and let you know what I'm planning for future posts (probably more than I can handle).

Well, I grew up in the woods (well in a house in the woods). I spent most of my childhood outside; I'm 33 now, and the outdoors is still my favorite place to be. My fiancee and I go hiking, backpacking, or camping as often as possible (and we walk a lot). Here is a picture of us with our daughter (then 3 months) Violet, at the top of a mountain (Oct. 2016).

It's interesting; when I was younger, even though I have always loved being outside, I never considered working outside. At first, in high school, I considered going into graphic design. I even did a 2 year vocational program in "graphic communications." At the time it made sense. I always liked computers, I fancy myself creative, and I already had the "tools" (a computer). And, I was good at it. I looked at some schools for graphic design, but they were too expensive. So, I tried my hand at a community college (that didn't have a graphics program at that time).

I quickly switched my major to psychology (my second favorite subject in high school), and did quite well in those classes; however, I did exceptionally poor in almost everything else. After 2 years, I dropped out without a diploma and with a GPA of 1.40. I had started working at a restaurant at that point which paid enough to afford the 2 bedroom house right next door to it. I moved in, and for the next 5 years, bounced from restaurant to restaurant looking to make enough money to keep my head above water.

Many things happened in that time (mostly bad decisions), but I did land a kitchen job in a restaurant that was right on the Delaware River. With mostly outside dining, it was a busy place with beautiful views, but that's not what makes this job so special. The restaurant sits on a campground that offers boating (rafting, kayaking, etc.). My first year there, I worked solely in the kitchen. I became friendly with the owner, and the campground/boating staff. As this is a seasonal job, over that winter there was a decision made to sell the business. The buyer, however, would take it over in stages. So my second year there, I worked for the original owner in the campground/boating (and then later, for both). By my third year, the new owner had taken over completely, and I stayed working in campground.

Finally, out of the hot kitchens and into the hot sun! This is where I belong. I am truly solar-powered, happy. Over the next few years, I made up my mind that I wanted to make a career out of something that was outdoors. However, as I mentioned before, this was a seasonal job. This meant finding work in the winter. Now, there is a ski resort not far from the campground. I could have gotten a job there. The only problem is, I hate being cold, never learned to ski/snowboard, and couldn't afford the gear even if I wanted to. 

So, back to the kitchens for me in the winter (on the plus side: they are warm). This couldn't work forever, though. I needed to make more money. I wanted to start a family. So about 7 years ago, I decided to go back to college. This time I had a definitive goal: find something to do that will keep me outside and make me more than minimum wage. I went into environmental/biology/ecology. I started back at the same college I dropped out of. I brought my GPA up from a 1.40 to a 3.66 (not perfect, but damn good). I then continued at SUNY Purchase in the same field of study. (I chose Purchase because I was given the opportunity to participate in a 6 week summer research program that they offer, and was excited to continue my research).

So while I was in college, I continued to work at both the campground (summer) and restaurants (winter). After college, I made a tough decision to leave the campground in search for something new. It would have been my 8th year, but I needed to pursue something more along my lines of study. 

I got a job as a farmhand at a nursery (Cleatus Farms), moving/potting/planting/digging plants, and that's where I met John (one of the owners here at Cleatus Farms), and we talked about my research. He asked me if I knew anything about hydroponics. I replied honestly, that I had been interested in it for a long time, but didn't know much. That was almost 3 years ago.

Today, I run the hydroponic production. We use hydroponics for the propagation of nursery stock (cloning), and have a dedicated greenhouse for leafy-green/herb/microgreen production. I have built, or helped build, every aspect of our massive hydroponic set-up. With John's guidance and knowledge and my background in biology, we have grown our hydroponic division exponentially.  Below are some photos of our operation.

So in the end, I got that "outside" job. I'm actually writing this in a greenhouse (truthfully, this whole online store was built in a greenhouse). Here's a pic for proof!

My workstation 

Okay, so that's enough of a story. This post is already so long.  
My point for telling you all of this is to let you know that we aren't just trying to sell you something. We are both the retailer and the end user; and, we know how overwhelming this subject can appear at times. We love what we do, and are hear to help anyway we can. That's my personal guarantee.
(I forgot to mention ^up there that we have 2 locations, 1 is the farm (where I work), and the other is our retail location in Northvale, New Jersey.)

Future blog posts will be on a variety of topics: from product reviews, setups, and comparisons, to custom builds, photo journals, and videos
What I'm planning to have out soon:

I think that's enough of me for today.

Keep it green,

p.s. If you want to see what else I do:


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