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City assist allows veterans group to start hydroponics program

By Staff | Jul 12, 2011

The city of Cape Coral is buying $1,600 worth of hydroponic equipment for the Invest in America Veterans Foundation, and allowing it use of land at Ecological Park to set up the equipment and begin growing food.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron confirmed the purchase of the equipment Monday following a press release issued by the foundation announcing its partnership with the city.
Barron said the city is purchasing hydroponic “stackers” for the group but is acting more in an “organizational” capacity than anything else.
Foundation President Ralph Santillo said the hydroponic equipment is part of a larger effort on behalf of the foundation that would, hopefully, create “business opportunities” for local veterans looking to improve their lives.
Described as a pilot program, Santillo said a Vietnam veteran is going to be the first person to learn and utilize the equipment.
Santillo said the equipment and the program could be up and running soon.
“We hope to have it up and running pretty quickly. We’re going to give the food away and some of it we may be able to use ourselves,” Santillo said.
Foundation and Community Redevelopment Foundation Agency board member Lou Simmons said the whole enterprise could be up and running within two months.
Cost efficient and easy to operate, Simmons said the hydroponic system could become a viable method for veterans to make money.
“There’s people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars with these things,” Simmons said. “I can’t see any reason why we can’t put these things all over the place. It doesn’t take rocket science once you get it up and running.”
Santillo said negotiations were ongoing between the foundation and Sweetbay Supermarkets, which still holds the lease of the building where Santillo and company hope to build an ambitious, and complex, war museum in downtown Cape Coral.
Although he’s under a “confidentiality agreement” regarding the negotiations, Santillo said, Sweetbay is behind the foundation “100 percent” and that the museum project is still very much a reality.
Until then, however, Santillo said the hydroponic plan is a way for veterans to get ahead.
“We’re expecting this to be a major employment opportunity for veterans,” he said.