SUNSET® Adds Ohio Greenhouse to Local Program

News Release — Kingsville, ON — Mastronardi Produce and Golden Fresh Farms, located in Wapakoneta, Ohio, are pleased to announce an exclusive agreement between the two companies to bring Mastronardi’s SUNSET® brand produce to more consumers throughout the US. This will be the 5th state that the SUNSET® brand will be grown locally in, allowing the company to reach over 75% of the United States population, delivering a local flavorful fruit in less than a 10-hour drive.

“Luis Chibante is a fantastic grower and operator. I’ve known him for years,” stated Mastronardi Produce President and CEO Paul Mastronardi. “His passion and expertise in growing will enable both of us to expand the Ohio footprint together.”

Ohio Proud allows loyal consumers to choose great tasting products that help support their local communities and ensures freshness.

“I’m excited to join Paul and the SUNSET® team with our new crop starting this fall,” shared Luis Chibante, President and owner of Golden Fresh Farms. “Mastronardi is the best growing and marketing company in the greenhouse industry, and this will give us the opportunity we need to expand the next 15 acres.”

Currently the greenhouse grows approximately 20 acres of tomatoes year-round with advanced supplemental lighting.

Early Adopter of Shipping Container Farming Opts to Build His Own

Eric Amyot, founder of Modular Farms. Photo courtesy of Modular Farms.

There’s something romantic about an upcycled shipping container being transformed into a sustainable indoor growing operation. It takes would-be garbage from rotting in a port and turns it into a farm system that has the potential to lengthen growing seasons, reduce local food insecurity, and stabilize a farmer’s annual income stream. And, for some it works.

But not always. Eric Amyot was an early adopter of container farming who purchased one of the best retrofitted shipping containers available in 2014 and started SmartGreens, a Canadian operation that grows and delivers fresh greens direct to consumer.

Amyot and his team quickly exhausted the capabilities of the shipping container farm. “The concept and the approach itself were adequate in the sense that it was a good foundation,” he says. “What was lacking was what was needed to grow food consistently and adequately. The turnkey wasn’t as turnkey as we required.” Read more

From Shipping Container Farm, Casper, Wyo. Pastor and Hydroponic Lettuce Grower Preaches Local

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Pastor Matt Powell, the owner of Casper, Wyo.-based Skyline Gardens. Photo courtesy of Skyline Gardens.

Matt Powell opens the door to his hydroponic lettuce farm, housed in a used refrigerated storage container on the corner of his Casper, Wyoming property, and the Marriage of Figaro fills the air.

“My little Mp3 there is loaded up with Mozart and Bach. The study I heard said they tested growing plants in three sound proof environments. They had classical in one, death metal in another and silence in a third. Classical did the best, death metal did the second best,” laughs Powell explaining how his fresh hyperlocal greens are grown with the aid of some classic tunes as they stay cool in their farm-in-a-box environment. Read more

Utilizing Hydroponics, Three Families Unite to Provide Meaningful Work for Their Children with Special Needs

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(from left to right) Colby Myers, Andrès Guillen and Luke Gerhardt operate CALCan Enterprises LLC, a hydroponic greenhouse outside of Topeka, Kansas, that grows lettuce and arugula. Photo courtesy of CALCan Enterprises LLC.

On the outskirts of Topeka, Kansas in a greenhouse equipped with a hydroponic system, three families have come together to provide meaningful work for their children who have special needs.

Tim and Rhonda Gerhardt, Luis Guillen and Marisol Perez, and Kris and Chuck Myers own CALCan Enterprises LLC, a year-old produce business that grows lettuce and arugula utilizing hydroponics. The company’s produce can be found in the Kansas City area on the shelves of Whole Foods as well as HyVee grocery stores and in several area school districts

The business name is derived from the first letters in each of their adult children’s names — Colby Myers, Andrès Guillen and Luke Gerhardt, who put in 10 to 15 hours a week at the greenhouse and receive payment for their labor. Read more

Sustainable Agriculture Institute Arms Returning Veterans with Tools to Become Farmers of the Future

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Colin and Karen Archipley, the co-founders of Archi’s Acres and Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AISA). Photo Courtesy of Archi’s Acres.

Returning military often find themselves struggling to return to normality after serving overseas. Colin Archipley, co-owner of Archi’s Acres in Escondido, CA knows exactly how they feel. He served three tours of duty during the Iraq War that began in 2003. Between his second and third deployment, Colin, along with his wife Karen, bought an inefficiently run avocado farm. Besides starting their own very successful living basil hydroponics farm on the site, the empathetic couple created a sustainable agriculture training center called Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AISA) to help ease the transition of service members from military to civilian life. The courses offered at the institute are open to civilians as well as veterans giving everyone a way to serve their local community while building a sustainable business that will support their family.

The AISA learning center is based in Valley Center, California, near San Diego, and offers its students instruction in everything from sustainable agribusiness and farming production methods to business development and planning during a six-week course on founders’ Colin and Karen Archipley’s farmland. Read more

A Hydroponic Urban Farming Family Affair

Dustin Lang didn’t set out to become an urban farmer. In fact, after high school he went on to study and practice corporate law. That is, until he was drawn back to the urban farm that he now runs together with his father Glen and father-in-law Jim Loy.

The aptly named LL Urban Farms in Raleigh, North Carolina, established by the Lang and Loy families in 2012, is a true family affair. The families first connected when their two eldest children, Dustin and Taylor Loy (now husband and wife), met in high school.

Coincidentally, at the time, both Dustin’s father and his future father-in-law were approaching retirement age and looking for viable small business opportunities to pursue. They looked at the potential of greenhouse agriculture and controlled environment systems, and despite the fact that neither of them had any previous professional experience in farming, decided to start a business to grow food for the local marketplace. Read more

Grow Local OC Conference Delves into the Future of Urban Food Systems in Orange County and Beyond

GL-oc-conf-logo-ID-v1On Nov. 10-11 hundreds of attendees from across Southern California and beyond showed up for the inaugural Grow Local OC Conference: The Future of Urban Food Systems held Nov. 10-11 in Orange County, CA at California State University, Fullerton to learn more about the community and economic development potential of fostering local food systems in cities.

The conference attendees were treated to lectures from the foremost urban farming experts, entrepreneurs, and community advocates in the sustainable and local food system space. Topics explored by the speakers and panelists included the role that food plays in bridging the rural urban divide, the potential for urban farming to generate community and economic capital, the challenges faced by entrepreneurs seeking funds for their local food and farming ventures, the potential for controlled environment agriculture in cities, and the power of community development initiatives to increase access to healthy, local food.

The conference provided ample opportunity for the local food champions, entrepreneurs, and advocates in Orange County to continue to strengthen their base of support to increase food access, improve health outcomes, and meet the demands of a thriving local food marketplace. Read more

Vermont Hydroponic Venture Emerges Out of Barroom Conversation, and a Desire to Grow Year-round

Partners David Hartshorn (left) and John Farr (right) of Waitsfield, VT-based Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics.

Partners David Hartshorn (left) and John Farr (right) of Waitsfield, VT-based Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics.

Like many great plans, Vermont’s Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics operation began as a barroom conversation among friends. In the early 1990s farmer David Hartshorn and his now business partners, brothers John and Ted Farr, sat around discussing their dream of building a greenhouse to enable them to grow produce year-round. At the time, though, the energy costs required to bring the project online were so prohibitive that they tabled the idea.

Approximately twenty years later, though, the timing was right. In 2013, with a loan procured from the Vermont Economic Development Authority, Hartshorn and the Farrs launched Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics (GMHH) in Waitsfield, Vermont. Read more

A Hydroponic Twist on the Family Farm

David Quick,

David Quick, head farmer at Quickley Produce Farm, which is run by four generations of family members. Photo credit: Alisa Welch.

Quickley Produce Farm represents a modern take on the family farm. It’s not a farm that has been passed down from one generation to the next, but rather a newly formed high-tech hydroponic farming operation run by four generations of family members.

Located in Galena, Missouri in the heart of the Ozarks, the farm, which officially took root in 2011, is run by David and Terry Quick. The couple’s daughter, Alisa Welch, and son-in-law, Russ Welch, play a pivotal role in day-to-day operations, and their three children — Dusty, Dawson and Bristol – lend a hand. Terry’s mom, Pauline Hedrick, also pitches in to make the farm a true family affair.

The family’s lineage points to a strong background in farming and gardening, but more recent generations had been working in a different trade: construction. That all changed in 2008 when the economy began to slow. Read more

Community College Hort Professor Prepares Students to Work in Indoor Greenhouses of the Future

Students in Professor Valerie Loew's Horticulture class at Fullerton College in Orange County, CA. Photo courtesy of Fullerton College.

Students in Professor Valerie Loew’s Horticulture class at Fullerton College in Orange County, CA. Photo courtesy of Fullerton College.

When it comes to Controlled Environment Agriculture [CEA], Valerie Loew wants the U.S. to catch up with Europe and China before it’s too late.

“The rest of the world is so far ahead of us, because they are so limited with their own resources,” says Loew, who is professor and horticulture department head at Fullerton College in Southern California. “They are taking advantage of this technology way before us because we have sunshine and we have water; but we really don’t. Between Europe and China, the amount of greenhouses they have is just off the charts. We need to start catching up.” Read more