New owners of Gerber Village lean green and organic

Environmental, green building and even organic initiatives are likely to get a boost in Buncombe, given the proclivities of Florida-based couple Mike and Lizzie Thrasher who purchased Gerber Village on Hendersonville Road last week.

Consider the couple’s projects on Anna Maria Island, just south of St. Petersburg, on Florida’s Gulf Coast:

Mike and I [own] properties on Anna Maria. With all of these buildings, we have been able to fulfill a very personal passion; creating sustainable, compassionately developed green buildings, which utilise their environment such as sunlight (which is in abundance on Anna Maria) to support their functioning, such as hot water and electricity.

Not only do we want to help protect our climate and our Island resources, but we want to take a lead in the investment of optimum renewable energy sources and share and showcase our projects to help educate others, to support we hope a continuous increase in sustainable development for the future.

Here we share with you the ‘green’ initiatives we have undertaken already on Anna Maria Island.

2009 – BEACH BUMS We put up just under 5kW of solar power on the roof of Beach Bums at 427 Pine Avenue to see how effective it was at generating electricity for the store, before we ‘took the plunge’ on far bigger roof on the warehouse next door. We invested just over $40,000. …

Then in June 2010, we went big:

PINEAPPLEFISH HOUSES We installed solar photovoltiac power and solar hot water heaters on 4 of our Pineapplefish homes, with the photovoltiac costing around $6/watt (the price had reduced from the previous year with the new technology) – we put between 2.7 and 5.2 mW onto each house. These will be rebated as before and will help reduce the bills there by at least 40%.

GINGERFISH WAREHOUSE We put up 102 panels, driving 3 solar inverters and generating peak power of 24 KW (54 Megawatt-hours/year on Gingerfish’s roof at at cost of $160,000. We plan on usinga lot of this power across the road at the Green Village we are currently building, powering those commercial buildings.

Our solar power was installed by both Solar Direct and Harrimans of Venice Beach. And, very importantly to the implementation of our plans, we worked with the islands’s resident Solar Power man Tom Stockebrand, a retired electronics engineer, who lives on Key Royale, but who has in previous years built his own solar house in Alburquerque AND drives his pick up truck on electricity generated by solar power at his own home. He has always stressed that on-site power generation is not only an excellent investment, but is also of double benefit to the environment. Power plants loose 2/3rd of the energy they use to generate electricity in it’s production – by generating our own, we are effectively avoiding the use of 3 x that much use of fossil fuels in a power plant. …

We plan on making as much as possible of our Green Village into a Zero Energy site, by which we mean great insulation, LED lights, solar hot water, and overall energy reduction so that our solar array can power the rest. Read more about Anna Maria Historic Green Village.

Lizzie founded Organix, a children’s organic-food company. So there’s irony to having the British couple take over property that once was home to the Gerber baby food plant.

As a businessperson, Lizzie offers this advice to people starting out in business:

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I think the most important thing, when you start a business, is to surround yourself with as many good calibre people as you can possibly find. Maybe you won’t have the money to afford to employ them all but to surround yourself with a good network, to surround yourself with a lot of support from your family and friends and to also get involved with people who can mentor you and inspire you and teach you things, it’s really good important to get that good grounding early on.

The one piece of advice I’d offer you if you were going to try and start your own business is you have to absolutely believe in yourself. Other people will tell you it won’t work, you will be worried sick about not having enough money or enough cash flow, you’ll not have the experience of having done it before, but if you really believe in yourself you can achieve anything.

She told the Anna Maria Island Sun:

“I was always concerned about the environment and I threw my energy into environmental causes,” she said.

“I’ve always been concerned about the world around us and what’s inside of us, and that’s one reason I started my organic baby food company.”

Thrasher said she educated herself about business, and the baby food company grew bigger and bigger. The product was sold all over Europe.

Ultimately, she sold the company to a larger company for a great deal of money.

Thanks to Barry Bialik for the tip on this story.

About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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