Garden Fresh Farms
Garden Fresh Farms is an urban farm in St. Paul, Minnesota that I had the pleasure of touring last Tuesday. GFF utilizes the aquaponics approach to grow vegetables in the urban building, growing all year-long in a warehouse in St. Paul. The fish, tilapia, are raised in tanks and are used to produce natural fertilizer for growing plants. The fish breathe CO2, which is another vital contribution to the plants obtaining their nutrients.
There are two different garden styles in the warehouse of Garden Fresh Farms. The first style is what they call, “The Lettuce Factory.” Lettuce and some herbs (such as oregano) grow on boards as shown in the picture to the left. The lights are two inches apart from each board to keep the plants at optimal growing levels. The second style of gardening techniques Garden Fresh Farms use is an “Orbiting Garden”, as shown in the picture below. These plans are grown on cylinders boards that rotate the plants, particularly stemmed plants such as basil, into the water underneath. “Their technology is very sophisticated and optimizes light, space, and water. They optimize rural and urban connections,” states Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Chief Operating Officer of Main Street Project.
During the tour, Peter Kordell, GFF Management, described the difference a farm in California and their urban farm in St. Paul. A farm in California uses approximately 40 gallons of water to produce one bunch of lettuce. Garden Fresh Farms utilizes ONE pint of water to produce one bunch of lettuce. This urban farm takes it to the next level of farming. In the old warehouse building in St. Paul – 875 Pierce Butler Rt., this farm holds approximately “9 farms” within the building! Talk about sustainable!
Haslett-Marroquin states, “The urban farm may not be able to produce trees, corn, or other sources of agriculture, but it is making a connection with vegetables used to optimize urban spaces for urban and rural communities.” Garden Fresh Farms partners with other organizations and local farmers to create a Community Supported Agriculture CSA – since Garden Fresh Farms only produces green leafy vegetables (as of now.)