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Food for thought: Welcome to the Ingenuity Innovation Center

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 3:22 pm

The Ingenuity Innovation Center is a place for people who think outside of the box. It’s for folks who like to tinker, build, invent, dream and do-it-yourself projects. Kate Wildrick and Aaron Imhof, along with a team of other “Ingenuers” have created a place on 20 acres of land in St. Helens for doing.

The Ingenuity Innovation Center has a community centered, holistic approach with the goal of addressing issues of food quality and accessibility, alternative energy, improved health, water and over-all well being in practical ways. Since they moved to St. Helens in September 2012, they have been spending much of their time setting up their 20-acre property. However, in December they experienced a setback when the old barn burnt down. They have since rebuilt a new lofted barn and had a “barn raising” and invited the community to visit earlier this summer, the first of many planned events. There is also a 1,500-square foot greenhouse and large, food-grade containers being modified for aquaponic gardens in which the center will teach classes and techniques about the symbiotic relationship between Koi fish and plants with the goal to grow food, “What we like about the whole aquaponics system is that it’s our first whole systems design,” said Kate.

Kate’s journey to St. Helens began after getting hit hard personally and professionally by the economic downturn while living in Service Creek, Ore., the town she owned and operated along with her now ex-husband.

“I learned where bad country songs came from…and I started over and moved back to Portland,” said Kate.

Finding work and beginning a new life in a new town wasn’t easy in the city but she knew she didn’t want the life she had before.

“I just knew I had to do something really different. I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world,” she added.

After moving to Portland, Kate met Aaron, an amateur, self-taught inventor and together they discovered what really mattered to them and decided to move to St. Helens after getting tired of living in the city. They found the perfect property for the new lifestyle and mission they were planning and began the Ingenuity Innovation Center.

“Everything we do with the Ingenuity Innovation Center is through the lens of building sustainable community-based solutions,” said Kate.

Through the center Kate, Aaron and the other “Ingenuers” want to address economic development possibilities, educate people on localism and use the knowledge and skills that people of all backgrounds, generations, education and abilities have. They want it to be a place that creates community and to encourage people’s curiosity and special interests. They are beginning with food because it is a basic community building block. They raised their greenhouse and have a prototype aquaponic tank producing more food than they can handle with plans to donate to the St. Helens food pantry in the future. In just a short time they’ve generated interest and for now they will focus on food but if momentum continues The Ingenuity Innovation Center may produce more than a few grilled Koi and zucchini dinners if Kate and Aaron have anything to say about it. For more information on the Ingenuity Innovation Center visit

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