Tag Archives: farm to table movement

Local Tower Garden Farmer Produces Aeroponic Food for Disney, Emeril’s, and other Fine Orlando Restaurants

Our mission at Future Growing® is to inspire healthy and sustainable living around the world, by empowering people with the technology and training to do so. We have been on this journey for almost a decade, with over 100 successful projects across North America.

The GreenHouse

Katherine Grandey, owner and operator of The GreenHouse. (Click photo to enlarge)

The local, grass roots urban food movement has given us the opportunity to meet some truly extraordinary people along the way, and the urban farmer we’ve featured this week is no exception. She is not only a first-class producer of premium produce, but has been instrumental in transforming the quality and standards for the locally grown food market in Central Florida.

I met Katherine Grandey, co-founder and owner of “The GreenHouse”, in Orlando, Fla., three years ago. Even though she was a highly-educated professional with a career and a young family, she wanted to be more engaged with her family, live a healthier life, and run her own company.

With that vision in mind, Katherine developed three main goals for her business:

  1. Produce healthy, safe food for her family.
  2. Provide local, healthy, chemical-free, low-carbon footprint food to the Orlando-area community.
  3. Work a moderate amount of hours and have time to raise her children.

To meet these goals, Katherine created a business plan with three main objectives:

  1. Produce food that is “beyond organic”, meaning that the food is more nutritious, has a smaller carbon footprint, and uses far less water.
  2. Start off with a 100-tower Tower Garden® farm in an affordable 48′ x 48′ greenhouse and office.
  3. Utilize Future Growing® patented vertical aeroponic technology to grow a multitude of produce in very little space to produce the highest quality local food available in Central Florida.

After developing her successful business more than two years ago, I recently had a chance to catch up with Katherine on the success of her Tower Garden® farm. Here is what she had to say:

Katherine, I am so proud of the work you are doing! You are obviously very busy. Who are your current clients?

Several high-end restaurants at the Walt Disney World resorts, along with Emeril’s Orlando, Ritz Carlton, Marriott World Center, Hilton, and several others.

Apopka 2 Apopka 3.jpg Ritz
Tower Gardens

Tower Gardens® (Click photo to enlarge)

These are big accounts! How did you land them…and keep them buying from you year round?

It is a well known fact that food grown in Florida has heavy pesticide residues. This is a natural side effect of farming in a state that has tremendous insect and disease pressures. The emerging local food movement in “the Sunshine State”, combined with the state’s looming water crisis, has created a boom of opportunity for farmers like me.

The restaurants we sell to demand the highest quality local, healthy, pesticide-free food. They also need seasonal consistency, which is something that has not been possible for outdoor farms. The Future Growing® Tower Gardens® allow us to have total control over the growth of the plant. The towers are so predictable and grow plants so consistently, that we can plan our seeding, transplanting and harvest four to six weeks in advance and be able to count on those numbers.

Petite leafy green mix, one week after transplant

Petite leafy green mix, one week after transplanting. (Click photo to enlarge)


Micro greens

Micro greens. (Click photo to enlarge)

We also have incredibly small losses, and the consistency of growing allows us to be able to deliver the same quantities weekly to our restaurants, making us a lot more reliable than “traditional” farms.

Because Orlando hosts large, international conventions, we can even accommodate special events and one-time orders, if we know far enough in advance.

What crops does The GreenHouse specialize in?

Petite leafy greens, lettuces, herbs and micro greens. A few of our micro greens include arugula, green sorrel, Swiss chard, and Tuscan kale.

Baby arugula

Baby arugula. (Click photo to enlarge)

What are some of the ways you have tried to sell produce, and which way is the most profitable?

Chives

Chives. (Click photo to enlarge)

We sell our produce “live”, with the roots attached. Living food grown in the aeroponic Tower Gardens produce the freshest, most flavorful aroma you can imagine, so the chefs really love it!

Petite sizes seem to be in demand with these clients, and I can turn these crops around in just 15 days with aeroponics! We sell and deliver directly to restaurants, which we find to be the most profitable. We also sell some plants through local produce distributors.

Florida has some extreme growing conditions that can bring in the bugs and diseases. How do you combat that?

The GreenHouse

North side of The GreenHouse. (Click photo to enlarge)

Our locally manufactured greenhouse from Imperial Builders and Supply is designed specifically for the harsh Florida climate. We have insect screens to keep the “bad” bugs out, evaporative cooling pads to keep us cool in the summer, and special light-diffusing plastic to keep the intense sun away from our crops.

Growing our food vertically keeps the plants up off the ground and allows for plentiful air circulation, which deters most pests and diseases. We use only organic sprays or beneficial insects for the few pest challenges we encounter at specific times of the year.

Releasing beneficial insects into the greenhouse

Releasing beneficial insects into the greenhouse.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Katherine, based on the information you just provided, I calculate that you can produce 135,000 plants in this small area on an annual basis. That is a tremendous turnover. I know you like to spend a lot of time at home with your family, so how many employees do you have?

Not too many, besides myself. We have one full-time manager, who oversees order fulfillment, seed planting, crop transplanting, and the cleaning and general greenhouse upkeep. We have a second full-time employee who works closely with the manager to fulfill the aforementioned jobs. We have an additional one to two part-time workers who help transplant, harvest, and maintain the greenhouse. We also work with a variety of community volunteers and college interns who help keep labor costs low, but gain education and experience in return.

Apopka 12

The GreenHouse volunteers hard at work!
(Click photo to enlarge)

Katherine, besides meeting your business goals, what have you enjoyed most about your work?

I love watching the expression on the chefs’ faces every time I walk in with a delivery! “Katherine is here!” they say, since they can smell the living food as soon as I walk in the door!

I am also someone who tries to live a green lifestyle. With our cool greenhouse and vertical aeroponic technology, we have been able to show people that there is a solution to the environmental challenges we face in Florida. I can grow an enormous amount of plants vertically in my small greenhouse with as little as five percent of the water as the outdoor farmers. I don’t use contaminated agriculture water, herbicides, or chemicals. My food is nutrient-dense, clean, and free of harmful pathogens. People just love it! They have come to understand what we are about and stand for, and that has given us a loyal following.

To learn more about Katherine and The GreenHouse, please click here.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

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“Meet Your Makers”

Welcome to a “green” future, growing healthy and sustainable food with aeroponic technology! Over the past decade, Future Growing® has pioneered the vertical aeroponic farming movement across the United States. Our vertical growing technology is so modern and innovative, that it has been approved by the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED points on certified green buildings.

With more than 100 successful projects across North America, Future Growing® modular farm technologies now come in all sizes and shapes. Our Tower Garden® farms are located in a myriad of locations, from conventional commercial greenhouse structures, to skyscraper rooftops in Manhattan, to farms in airport terminals. Behind each of these successful farms is an extraordinary individual with a passion for local, sustainable food and modern agriculture.

Meet one of these extraordinary urban farmers in the “Meet Your Makers” video segment below.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


Top 2014 Food Trends Feature Green Movement

Montecito Urban Farms

Farm to table in 50 steps or less.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Those of us deeply committed to the “green” movement have developed an acute awareness about the food we eat, consumer purchasing trends, and the current status of our planet’s resources. Those committed to living sustainably and ensuring a high quality, chemical-free food supply for our children’s future are aware of the truth. We are not fooled by the million dollar advertising campaigns and propaganda put forth by big business.

So many people today are frustrated and even enraged with the “do nothing” government, big business, and big agriculture. The battle will not be won with tricky politics and big money; instead, it is being won by simple, honest choices.

Strawberry Tower Garden

Children eat what they grow.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The truth is that this modern green movement is the largest movement of its kind in the history of the world that was not pushed forward by government or religion—or by any other big institution, for that matter. The movement is grassroots: it is you and me, it is one person at a time, making choices of integrity and thoughtfulness, leading to the unstoppable mass we have today.

Gourmet dishes

Creative cuisine with phytonutrient-rich food.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Congratulations to all of you who are committed to the local food movement and a sustainable way of life. Click on the link below to see what the National Restaurant Association predicts will be the top menu trends for the coming year in its annual “What’s Hot” culinary forecast. You will see trends brought about urban farmers and aeroponic growers, along with consumers who are demanding a healthier, more eco-friendly food supply.

Together, we are making a significant impact on consumers’ health and eating habits in 2014 and beyond!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC



How Tower Gardens® are Teaching Kids the Future of Growing

Since 2006, Future Growing® has been partnering with the nation’s leading schools to create healthier lunches and hands-on science lessons. It’s gratifying to see Future Growing®’s aeroponic technology being welcomed by education, because we know firsthand how students of all ages benefit from learning to grow food in their own schools. These kids will soon be the decision-makers of the 21st century, and will be faced with serious choices on managing our future supplies and quality of water, air, and soil.

Hope4Kids 02

Hope 4 Kids Preschool believes in healthy eating and healthy living. (Click photo to enlarge)

Here are some of the innovative schools—ranging from preschools to colleges—using Future Growing®’s aeroponic technology to teach students about how to grow healthy, sustainable Tower Garden® produce and nourish their bodies in a healthy way.

Hope 4 Kids Preschool in Santa Barbara, Calif., believes in healthy eating and healthy living, and is the first preschool in the world to have a commercial Tower Garden® farm.

Hope4Kids 06

Hope 4 Kids offers tasty and nutritious meals and cooking activities.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The staff at Hope 4 Kids reports: “We love our commercial Tower Garden® farm because it is so simple and always produces amazingly tasty and nutritious fruits and vegetables!

“Tower Gardens® produce far more colorful, better tasting, better smelling, and incredibly nutritious fruits and vegetables. The Tower Garden® is definitely a step toward future gardens, as it is a wonderful, clean, and efficient way to produce utterly delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables.”

Hope4Kids 04

The first preschool in the world to have a commercial Tower Garden® farm.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The school offers tasty and nutritious cooking activities for students, teaching them how to make and eat healthy foods such as Tower Garden® salads, guacamole, pico de gallo, and kale chips. To learn more about Hope 4 Kids’ Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm, click here.

In Destrehan, La., Harry Hurst Middle School’s “Green Team”, led by seventh grade teacher Julie Rexford, was awarded the Healthy Community Grant from the Keep Louisiana Beautiful organization in 2013.

The grant allowed the middle school to start an aeroponic Tower Garden® farm. Students participate in growing produce on campus that is served within the school cafeteria. What an innovative way for students to experience what high quality, chemical-free produce actually tastes like!

This system allows students to participate in every aspect of sustainable gardening. For more information about the Hurst Middle School project, click here.

Newman School

After Newman’s food services director, Trudi Ruppenicker (center of photo) saw another Tower Garden® farm in New Orleans, it did not take long for Newman’s administration to acquire one for their own food service program. (Click photo to enlarge)

In New Orleans, Isidore Newman School’s foodservice director, Trudi Ruppenicker, worked with Sage Dining to bring a Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm to the school.

Students help germinate the seeds and harvest the produce. The students can also learn about sustainability, water conservation, the life cycles of plants, and the benefits of locally sourced foods. Special signs on menu items containing home-grown foods inform the diners and generate more interest in the program. Click here to view the rest of the photo gallery.

The Green Bronx Machine has become an urban farming revolution in Bronx classrooms. Stephen Ritz, a Bronx-born-and-bred public school teacher, is creating a revolution in his community by introducing students to something unexpected—aeroponic farming.

By teaching his disadvantaged students where food comes from and how to grow their own, he is also helping them grow life skills and cultivate brighter futures.

The Green Bronx Machine recently received funding from Progressive Insurance’s “Apron Projects” to build a Tower Garden® farm. Ritz and some of his students are featured in a YouTube video clip, which can be viewed below:

University of Florida

University of Florida scientist researches hydroponic systems for small family and urban farms.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The University of Florida’s Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak, Fla., is working with sustainable “green” technologies from Future Growing. The Tower Garden® technology has been used in the facility’s research since 2007.

The Extension Center also offers a course where students learn soil-less growing techniques and are given a tour of the research facility to see the growing systems in operation.

From its inception, Future Growing® has cultivated relationships with schools all over the country, recognizing that the health of our bodies—and our planet—will be in the hands of these bright young students.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


Americans Demanding Local, Sustainable Tower Garden Produce at Restaurants

As Americans continue to eat more local and sustainable produce and herbs themselves, they are expecting the same from the restaurants they visit.

Tower Gardens at Highland Manor

The chef at Highland Manor in central Florida displays a harvest from the Tower Gardens®. Pictured at right is Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing® LLC. (Click photo to enlarge)

Nearly 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they would be more likely to visit restaurants that offer healthy options, according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic. And these health-conscious restaurant guests now define “healthy” foods as those that are “locally grown” and “fresh”, instead of the old definitions of “low fat” and low calorie”, Technomic says.

Then, just last week, the National Restaurant Association declared that the top hot trends for restaurant menus in 2014 will be locally grown produce, hyper-local sourcing (restaurants that sport their own gardens), and healthful kids’ meals.

Future Growing® LLC’s commercial urban farms have been at the forefront of this trend for years. Some of our long-time growers—which sport expansive Tower Garden® farms on their rooftops—are among the nation’s finest restaurants, including Primo Restaurant at JW Marriott and Bell Book & Candle in New York City.

Harvesting heirloom tomatoes

Harvesting heirloom tomatoes at Bell Book and Candle’s rooftop Tower Garden farm. (Click photo to enlarge)

Restaurants are the primary customers for our flourishing Future Growing® urban farms. Take Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s O’Hare Urban Garden, for example: It’s the first airport featuring an indoor farm, with numerous Tower Garden® towers that supplies the airport’s Farmers’ Market as well as many of its upscale eateries, including Wolfgang Puck and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera.

LA Urban Farms supplies fresh Tower Garden® produce to the top restaurants in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

604 Arizona - TG farm

Pictured above are Jessica Coleman; Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing LLC; and Wendy Coleman, at an L.A. Urban Farms rooftop Tower Garden farm.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Likewise, Montecito Urban Farms in Summerland, CA delivers the freshest herbs, greens and produce to popular local restaurants such as Wine Cask Restaurant, Bouchon Santa Barbara, and Sojourner Café & Restaurant.

As the locally-sourced produce trend continues to gain momentum in the mainstream, Future Growing®’s urban farms will be at the forefront of supplying the highest quality, chemical-free, nutritious produce to restaurants all over the world. Read about this fast-growing restaurant trend for yourself in the QSR Magazine blog copied below!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


NRA Rounds Up Hottest Culinary Trends of 2014

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) each year prepares its What’s Hot culinary forecast of menu trends for the coming year. The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs, members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), to find which food and beverage items will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2014.

Wind Horse Cafe

Customers enjoy their outdoor lunch surrounded by Future Growing® Tower Gardens®, at Wind Horse Cafe in Eustis, FL. (Click photo to enlarge)

The top 10 food trends for 2014 are:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Environmental sustainability
  4. Healthful kids’ meals
  5. Gluten-free cuisine
  6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  7. Children’s nutrition
  8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Farm/estate branded items
Chef John Mooney

Chef John Mooney prepping edible squash flowers for evening dinner special.
(Click photo to enlarge)

“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “True trends, as opposed to temporary fads, show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more-healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” says Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, HGT, AAC, ACF national president. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

Chefs at Montecito Urban Farm

Pictured here, from left to right, are: Executive Chef Greg Murphy of Bouchon, Chef Brandon Hughes of the Wine Cask Restaurant, and Chef Nik Ramirez of the Intermezzo Bar and Cafe. All three restaurants are located in Santa Barbara, CA. (Click photo to enlarge)

The What’s Hot in 2014 survey also found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients), and regional signature cocktails.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition, and gluten-free cuisine.

The five items with the highest ranking as a waning trend in 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho, and fun-shaped children’s items.

Playa Rivera rooftop

Street view of Playa Rivera, a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles, CA with a Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm on its rooftop. (Click photo to enlarge)

The five items with the highest points as perennial trends next year were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbeque, and eggs benedict.

The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.

Compared with five years ago, items that have remained top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood, and health/nutrition.

Latin peppers being dried for the evening dinner.

Latin peppers being dried for the evening dinner at Playa Rivera in Los Angeles. (Click photo to enlarge)

Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum, and dessert flights.

Also included in the What’s Hot in 2014 survey were questions about other trends. Nearly six out of 10 (59 percent) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while one-third (33 percent) said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted.

Blog originally published by QSR Magazine on December 3, 2013.


Many U.S. Families Thankful for Local Food

The United States’ healthcare crisis continues to spin out of control, with no end in sight. As a result, many families are practicing preventive medicine through healthy living, and are consuming more local, natural, and organic fruits and vegetables.

In fact, the USDA now says: “The local food economy is here to stay and growing”. In early 2013, one of the country’s largest lending institutions to the agricultural community, Rabobank, published a report entitled “Local Foods: Shifting the Balance of Opportunity for Regional U.S. Produce.”

“The demand for locally grown foods has reached critical mass. It has changed the competitive landscape and is now a permanent mainstream trend,” the report’s author and senior agricultural analyst wrote.

The bottom line in Rabobank’s report is: “The local foods trend will continue to expand for fresh produce over the next five years, and growers must adapt their business models to accommodate the desire for local, fresh produce.”

The U.S. has come such a long way. This year, local foods accounted for more than a 10 percent of the California Big Ag leafy green and lettuce market! That would have never been the case even five years ago. Future Growing contributes a significant part of that percentage, providing technology that empowers families and over 100 local farms to grow healthy fruits and vegetables, in places where such growing has never have been done!

Tim Blank, founder of Future Growing LLC, holds freshly-harvested “living” bibb lettuce at The GreenHouse in central Florida.

Tim Blank, founder of Future Growing LLC, holds freshly-harvested “living” bibb lettuce at The GreenHouse in central Florida. (Click photo to enlarge)

I am often asked, “What is aeroponics?” Aeroponics is considered a hydroponic technique or method, so the process is a form of hydroponics.

Inside the Tower Chamber

Inside the tower chamber.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Aeroponics is simply defined as the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.

The Tower Garden® growing chamber contains no soil or aggregate medium. Instead, the chamber is empty. It’s just roots and air between each irrigation cycle. The tumbling water during these irrigation cycles creates a fine mist, oxygenating the water and bathing the roots of each plant on its way down to the reservoir. This process is continuously repeated with each irrigation cycle, providing maximum amounts of fresh oxygen, water, and nutrients to the roots of the plants 24 hours a day.

The intelligent design of the Tower Garden® system produces extraordinary crops that grow much faster than they would in soil, producing bountiful harvests within weeks of being transplanted into the system.

Tower to Table in ten steps, farming made so simple anyone can do it!

Tower to table in ten steps . . . farming made so simple anyone can do it! (Click photo to enlarge)

One of the main purposes behind Future Growing®’s patented aeroponic design was to avoid clogging misters – which typically plagues traditional aeroponic growing systems – by utilizing high-flow aeroponics.

Another key benefit is the massive growing chamber for the roots. Because the plants’ roots do not run out of space, they continue to grow strong and healthy. There are commercial Tower Garden® farmers producing herb crops for several years now with plenty of room to go!

About our aeroponic plant food:

To achieve our mission of producing healthy food for people, we also developed an all-natural, stable, water-based ionic mineral solution to support the patented vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® technology.

With assistance from leading world experts in plant and human nutrition, we developed the proprietary Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® plant food we use today. Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® contains a wide range of specially-formulated ionic minerals and plant nutrients. It is the world’s first high-performance ionic mineral solution specifically designed for all types of food and flowering crops. The pH balanced blend of natural plant nutrients helps stimulate plants’ roots, flowers, fruits, and leaves.

Unlike conventional hydroponic fertilizers, the amazing Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® can be used to grow everything from gourmet lettuce and edible flowers to beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes. Healthy plants packed with nutrition help create healthy people.

Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® are also loaded with trace minerals that are essential to vibrant human health! Jake Kelly, a commercial rooftop Tower Garden® farmer in Southern California, recently grew a 3-foot aeroponic kale plant in a matter of weeks.

Left: 3 foot kale in a Tower Garden. Right: Jake delivers extraordinary aeroponic produce to market.

       Left: 3 foot kale in a Tower Garden.          Right: Jake delivers extraordinary aeroponic produce to market.

As you can see, our patented Tower Garden® system helps both large growers and smaller growers to develop highly flavorful, pesticide-free, and environmentally-friendly crops. Whether it is a commercial farm or a balcony in Manhattan, NY, the vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® is putting the POWER back into local food.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


Airports Going Green With Local Food

Harvesting freshly-picked “living” bibb lettuce.

O’Hare farm manager harvesting freshly-picked “living” bibb lettuce.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Future Growing® began working with HMSHost Corp. and Chicago O’Hare International Airport in 2010, to develop the world’s first farm inside an airport terminal. Since then, the O’Hare Urban Farm has become the most successful and productive farm inside an airport. The Farm not only supplies the airport’s high quality and celebrity restaurants, such as Tortas Frontera Grill by Rick Bayless, but also supplies the successful Farmer’s Market at O’Hare.

O’Hare is also home to the International Airports Going Green Conference, which was held last week and boasted a record attendance of 400. Airports Going Green is one of aviation’s leading sustainability forums, bringing leaders together to discuss how airports, airlines, and the aviation industry as a whole can grow while minimizing impacts to the environment.

O’Hare and Future Growing® have been at the forefront of this sustainability and eco-friendly revolution in the aviation industry, pioneering the world’s first commercial aeroponic farm inside an airport.

I am pleased to see that other airports have begun following O’Hare’s example and have incorporated growing as a sustainable component in their overall green initiatives. Check out this recent blog I came across, which reveals how local food is being grown in airports across the U.S.!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


While rushing to board your next flight, you might not expect farmers’ markets and urban farms among the airport’s fast food joints, mani-pedi stations, and newsstands. At four U.S. airports, however, travelers are encountering exactly that. Check out how the local food movement has arrived at airline terminals in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

JetBlue’s Pop-Up Farmers’ Market at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport:

From October 29-31, JetBlue hosted a pop-up farmers’ market at New York’s JFK in partnership with GrowNYC, which operates the city’s 52 greenmarkets. The market, located beyond security in Terminal 5, featured items designed to appeal to both passengers boarding a flight and arriving travelers who wanted to pick up something healthy to eat or give as a gift. The products were all grown or made in New York state, including baked goods, grains, honey, jams, maple syrup, fruit, pickles, tomato sauces, wine, beer, and hard cider. The market also included education stations, a harvest-themed photo booth, a bike blender for people-powered smoothies, a compost pile with live worms, and a recycling game.

Farmers market at JFK Airport

A pop-up farmers market at the JetBlue terminal at New York’s JFK airport. (Photo courtesy of JetBlue.)

“When you think of an airport, farms and composting do not automatically come to mind,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s head of sustainability. “We are connecting the two because we know sustainability is an ongoing cycle. The nutritious scraps of food we compost in T5 are returned to the ground to help make New York produce.” The airline started a composting program in May with Air Ventures, the franchisee that owns and operates the Jamba Juice and Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the terminal, and Royal Waste Services to separate and haul nearly 300 pounds of food waste each day for composting. Food scraps are transported to McEnroe Farm in New York’s Hudson River Valley, where it is composted into nutrient-rich soil and used to grow produce.

While the JFK farmers’ market was a short-term test, the airline has not ruled out hosting the concept again in New York or in other cities.

O’Hare Airport’s aeroponic garden:

At O’Hare Airport’s Aeroponic Urban Garden, plants are harvested year-round and supply airport restaurants. Installed in the summer of 2011 as a joint collaboration between the Chicago Dept. of Aviation and HMSHost Corp., O’Hare’s 928-square-foot aeroponic garden is the first of its kind to be located in an airport.

O'Hare Urban Garden

O’Hare International Airport’s Urban Garden.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Located on the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, the plants are suspended in 26 vertical towers that employ sustainable “green” technology, developed by Future Growing LLC, to grow more than 1,100 plants, including a variety of culinary herbs, gourmet lettuces, leafy greens, and other vegetables. The plants are harvested year-round and supply airport restaurants such as Tortas Frontera, Wolfgang Puck, and Wicker Park Sushi, meaning the produce may go only 20 feet from farm to table. In addition, some of the “living lettuce”—with roots intact for premium freshness—is harvested, packaged in biodegradable clamshells, and sold to airport guests. By avoiding the need to transport produce over long distances, the O’Hare Urban Garden plants can be picked at the peak of ripeness, thus providing both greater nutrition and more flavorful produce.

Some of the O’Hare Urban Garden’s living lettuce is packaged in biodegradable clamshells and sold to guests at the airport’s “farmers market”.

Some of the O’Hare Urban Garden’s living lettuce is packaged in biodegradable clamshells and sold to guests at the airport’s “farmers market”.

Producing and purchasing locally grown foods supports the Chicago Dept. of Aviation’s commitment to sustainability by strengthening the local economy and job market, providing a unique learning opportunity for travelers, and reducing urban sprawl, traffic congestion, habitat loss, and pollution from transportation of produce.

Napa Farms Market at San Francisco Airport

Napa Farms Market inside Terminal 2 at San Francisco Airport. (Photo: Vickie Clampett.)

Napa Farms Market inside Terminal 2 at the San Francisco Airport:

Modeled after San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building Marketplace, the 5,000-square-foot Napa Farms Market inside Terminal 2 at the San Francisco Airport opened in April 2011. The market’s mission is to sell fresh, sustainable products from local brands like Equator Coffee, Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie, Cow Girl Creamery, Kara’s Cupcakes, Vino Volo, and Acme Bakery. The market was developed by Tastes on the Fly, four Bay Area restaurant entrepreneurs who joined forces in 1999 to develop and operate food-and-beverage concepts in U.S. airports. To ensure authenticity, they worked with retail marketplace developer Steve Carlin, who spearheaded the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace and founded Napa’s Oxbow Public Market.

Plans for Farmers Market To Go at Los Angeles Airport:

After nearly 80 years at Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles, the Original Farmers Market is expanding with a new location at Los Angeles International Airport. Scheduled to open early next year in Delta Air Lines Terminal 5, the mini market will offer selected goods from Original Farmers Market sellers, including wines and cheeses from Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market, nuts and nut butters from Magee’s House of Nuts, authentic Mexican cuisine from ¡Loteria! Grill, baked pastries and desserts from T & Y Bakery, Bennett’s Ice Cream, spices from Dragunara Spice Bazaar, and treats for traveling pups from Three Dog Bakery. In addition to the market, meals-to-go and on-site dining will be available. The airport market also will have iPads and kiosks that provide fun facts about Market merchants and their shops.


The article quoted in this week’s blog post is courtesy of Sustainable America (www.sustainableamerica.org), an organization which supports growing, buying, and eating more locally sourced, fresh food, as well as initiatives like locating farmers’ markets and urban farms in unexpected locations to increase people’s awareness of and access to local food systems. Alternative farming methods, which currently total about 3 percent of U.S. food production, have the potential to increase our food supply while reducing energy use. To help head off an impending food and fuel crisis, Sustainable America aims to reduce U.S. oil consumption by 50% by 2030 while increasing U.S. food availability by 50% by 2035.