Monday, March 16, 2009

buy hydroponic. lettuce.

I've had it. I'm not going to buy lettuce from California any more. Picture this: A small head of green lettuce grows in the dirt for many weeks. The lettuce, which is about 95% water, is then picked, washed, and placed in a huge box with hundreds of other heads. The box is placed on a semi trailer with many other boxes of lettuce. The truck drives from some town in California's central valley to St. Paul, MN, where some dude unloads it into the storage room of a grocery store, and someone else puts it in the produce section. Then someone drives to the store to buy it, they return home, and they put it in their refrigerator, where it may wilt before it is ever eaten. This head of lettuce, which, don't forget, is frickin' 95% water, just traveled over 2,000 miles to meet this basic "need." Does that make any sense? It's akin to growing bottles of water iand shipping them thousands of miles to be consumed by someone who already has water. Yes, we do that, too.For that very reason, northern food economies should support more greenhouse and hydroponic produce growers. From May to October, farmer's markets and co-ops carry an excellent assortment of locally grown, outdoor lettuces and leafy greens, but these are clearly not an option in cold months. Hydroponically grown lettuce, by contrast, is extremely versatile because it simply depends on a warm greenhouse and adequate water and nutrients (we have plenty of both in MN, and not so much in CA).

LaBore Farms, a small hydroponic lettuce producer in Faribault, MN recently started selling some value-priced greens at area co-ops and natural foods stores. At approximately $2.99 per bag, these greens are delicious, nutritious and they keep longer in your refrigerator because they only travel about 50 miles to a St. Paul store, vs. the epic transcontinental journey described above. Read more about hydroponic agriculture.


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