Our vision at Urban Fresh Farms includes the component of educating children and adults in our community about hydroponics.
To that end, this year, as summer approached, we worked with students and teachers in Richland Two and at Montessori School of Columbia.
In April, we were the launch event for a PBL for magnet and health students at Ridge View High School. We shared with students about locally grown foods and hydroponics.
Later we returned to Ridge View to see the culmination of the PBL: Students presented their plans to create traditional and hydroponic school gardens.
In May at Richland Northeast High School, Chip helped to judge business plans by entrepreneurial students at a Shark Tank event. He shared his own experiences creating business plans, focusing on Urban Fresh.
This summer, Sarah taught the students at Montessori School of Columbia about hydroponics. They grew wheatgrass in plastic water bottles, learning about using the high-vitamin wheatgrass in smoothies while practicing the repurposing of plastic bottles that constitute a big part of daily garbage across the United States.
We at Urban Fresh look forward to next year: We will continue to educate children and adults about hydroponics and healthy eating.
Keep watching! Soon we will be growing fresh, leafy green vegetables near you!
We've talked a lot about how fresh and safe our lettuce will be. It won't be long before you all will have the chance to see for yourself.
However, we haven't talked much about our staff and how we will take care of them.
Without a doubt, folks who work at Urban Fresh Farms will work hard. Growers make judgments about what plants need and when plants are ready to harvest. Growers must be vigilant, aware of the state of the plants, of the water and nutrients that feed them, of the growing units, of the surroundings. Awareness will keep our product safe, healthy, and consistent.
Most importantly, growers at Urban Fresh Farms will be learning a craft that could end food deserts while saving water and making money.
And they will be paid a living wage to do it.
Part of our business model is to sustain our work force by paying them what they deserve. We ask for vigilance and hard work from our staff, and we want them to feel loyal. We work with staff to schedule their working hours within the context of busy lives.
Everyone will be expected to attend a Food Safety Meeting every Thursday morning at 9:00--every week. Otherwise, scheduling will be worker-considerate: Urban Fresh Farms will need alert growers around the clock. Plants need pretty constant care.
Money is important--without a doubt--but the main way we are creating sustainable livelihoods at Urban Fresh Farms is by empowering our staff to become a part of the Vision:
Keep following us to find out more!
Google "The State Urban Fresh Farms," and check out the results. Then check out the article about Urban Fresh Farms in The State newspaper!
This is such an exciting time to be part of the growth and life in Columbia, SC!
Mark your calendars. We will be opening our doors this summer.
We've been waiting for today's meeting for some time, and we are not the only ones who have been. Check out this article from Columbia's Free Times newspaper: Zoning Board to Consider Downtown Hydroponic Farm. (Spoiler Alert: They approved it! Now our adventure of bringing fresh, leafy greens to Columbia will begin in earnest!)
When I was a child, people sometimes got sick from food. We knew not to eat under-cooked pork. We knew to double-check to be sure the chicken was done. We were wary of mayonnaise-laden potato salad or deviled eggs that had spent some time on the picnic table.
Then, some ten years ago, the first reports of bagged spinach laden with E. coli frightened and baffled grocery store customers. People wondered, "Who in the world gets sick from spinach?"
Since then, E. coli foodborne disease outbreaks have occurred every year, sometimes resulting in illness--and even death.
Concerns became so great that President Obama signed into law the "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years ... on January 4, 2011" (par. 1). Just last year, concerns about food safety dominated the agenda of the World Health Day 2015.
Keep Urban Fresh Farms at the top of your list for fresh leafy vegetables. We are certainly keeping food safety at the top of ours!
We've all seen the headlines about contaminated food sources, including the latest Listeria outbreak in Dole and other packaged salads.
A recent post in NPR's blog, The Salt, touts the rising emphasis on vegetables in our restaurants and in our personal eating habits.
"Bon Appetit magazine named AL's Place in San Francisco the best new restaurant of 2015. Meats at AL's Place are listed under 'sides.' The rest of the menu features vegetable-centric dishes sometimes featuring animal protein as an ingredient – pear curry, black lime yellowtail, persimmon, blistered squash. The hanger steak (with smoked salmon butter), however, is a side dish.
"This and other restaurants are also using the whole vegetable. What used to go in the compost heap is now fermented, roasted or smoked and used in other dishes. The stem-to-leaf approach follows the example of nose-to-tail eating" (par. 3-4).
Urban Fresh Farms' leafy green vegetables are sure to help you fill more of your plate with healthy choices in the New Year.
The holidays were a time of rest, rejuvenation, and planning for the future of Urban Fresh Farms.
Here are a few exciting updates:
1. We are looking at the new location at 1315 Calhoun Drive as our jumping off point in Columbia. Locals will recognize this place as being just a few blocks from the new Bull Street redevelopment project. Columbia is growing stronger every day. We are happy to be a part of this vibrant city.
2. The location is, in the other direction, a quick stroll from over 100 restaurants downtown and in the Vista. Watch for our fresh greens to be popping up in one of these spots in the coming months!
3. Just yesterday, delicious brunch at Bourbon on Main Street made us even more thankful as we enjoyed tasty food and drinks in the shadow of the Capitol.
Here's wishing you and yours a superb 2016.
Stop by and see us soon!
10. Consistency of Product: The way we grow will insure that the customer gets fresh, crisp healthy vegetables every time -- and no ugly vegetables!
9. Less food waste: Just-in-time harvesting means no product sits around getting old and in need of a new grocery store home.
8. Aesthetically pleasing images: Food grown hydroponically is beautiful.
7. Consistent supply to local restaurants: Fresh, crisp greens available year-round!
6. Healthy options for local folks: Urban Fresh Farms welcomes community members to its retail space. Crisp, fresh, healthy food options can bring in even the most reluctant eater.
5. Locally grown: Urban Fresh Farmers are your neighbors growing for you.
4. Less water use: An MIT study from 2015 claims that growing hydroponically "limits the threat of water waste via over- or poorly-timed irrigation (water loss due to evaporation), and therefore limits freshwater habitat abuses" ("Benefits," 1).
3. Local jobs: Your neighbors, friends, and family will be working here.
2. Carbon footprint reduced: Because Urban Fresh Farms is near the end user, trucks will not need to haul vegetables across the country. According to a July 2003 report from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, food often travels some 1500 miles from where it is grown to where it is sold (see Figure 2, above).
1. Up to 2 weeks fresher: Urban Fresh Farms provides fresh vegetables to local restaurants within hours of harvest. Customers can even take home live lettuce and harvest it when they are ready to serve it!
Chip spent some time with Mike Switzer today, talking about the continued journey to bring fresh, crisp vegetables to the world. He explained how Urban Fresh Farms will bring these greens to local tables.
One choice of UFF is to open facilities that are a bit smaller, growing hydroponically, intensively, and vertically. In this way, more facilities will open. More fresh vegetables will be grown in a smaller space. More folks will have access to those fresh vegetables.
Chip also shared that many vegetables consumed locally are grown on the West Coast. Because of that, vegetables have been harvested days before local consumers can even buy them. Customers who visit an Urban Fresh Farms facility can harvest their own vegetables--or even take home live lettuce that can be harvested at home.
Check out the full interview at SC Business Review on SC Public Radio.
Access the map below at the USDA Blog.