Greens Get Extended Life at Hydroponic Farm
Don’t get caught saying “spring mix” around the greenhouse of lēf Farms.
That phrase will cost you a quarter in the office swear jar. The founders of this innovative hydroponic farm in Loudon, N.H., believe their mixes of fresh, pesticide-free baby greens are so distinct and pleasing to the palate that they deserved unique names such as smooth, balance and spice.
“We worked with regional chefs and a consumer advisory panel to test over 200 varieties of greens,” says Donald Grandmaison, sales and marketing manager of lef Farms. “We whittled it down to the three mixes we have now and felt they were so delicious that they should be known by the flavor or complement that they bring to the meal.” Lēf Farms is the vision of Henry Huntington, his father Jon, and brother Jeff, who all have gained their agricultural prowess in the family company, Pleasant View Gardens. Recently, the Huntingtons decided to build a new 75,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse facility to grow fresh baby greens year-round under the lēf Farms brand.
“We work with the Greater Boston Food Bank and the New Hampshire Food Bank to provide them with fresh, delicious greens grown locally, in the winter.”
Hydroponic greenhouse production, however, takes a considerable amount of technology to get it right. The Huntingtons traveled the world searching for the best automated growing technology and found it from Finland-based company Green Automation.
With a few modifications to their baby leaf lettuce system, like using peat instead of rock wool as a growing medium, lēf Farms says they can grow, harvest and ship greens fresher than anyone around. “Our greens will get to you within 24 hours of being harvested,” says Grandmaison.
“Because our greens are grown in a greenhouse, they are really protected from the elements.”
The short harvest to delivery time can potentially result in less waste in the kitchen and an increase in shelf life. Plus, lēf Farms aims to provide 20 percent more plates per pound, which could be good news when reviewing portion costs.
“It’s going to taste better, be free of chemicals and you don’t have to throw any away,” says Grandmaison. The farm is also harvesting its greens using a method called cold harvesting, which Grandmaison says increases their shelf life from 14 to 23 to 28 days.
“We work with the Greater Boston Food Bank and the New Hampshire Food Bank to provide them with fresh, delicious greens grown locally, in the winter.” – Don Grandmaison
All the technology aside, the Huntingtons simply believe greens need to be grown where they will be eaten, so you can enjoy them at their peak freshness. They have plans to build on another six acres of land and increase their hydroponic production, perhaps putting them on the road to changing the perceptions and flavor of greens in the Northeast.