PENN TWP., Pa. - Leafy greens stretch as far as the eye can see, thanks to rows and rows of lettuce and salad greens. It's all inside, under cover, in a greenhouse in Snyder County, near Selinsgrove.
BrightFarms is a year-round operation, and kids on field trips can get a peek inside. Charlie Gagne, an apprentice grower, often gives the tours, but with no field trips in sight these days, BrightFarms put the tours online. In 11 minutes, and with some catchy background tunes, Charlie shows you how they grow their greens.
"With everything going on, we wanted to create a way that we still could be safe for both our guests and our employees," Charlie said, "to still show off what we're doing and help build that connection between food you might see at your local Giant or your local grocery store and what we're actually doing here at the farm."
What they're doing is growing food hydroponically, so the greens are growing in water. Seeds are planted on these big floating boards into a mixture of peat moss. You could use sand or pebbles. The idea is to use anything but soil or dirt.
Then, they go in the germination chamber. Once seedlings sprout, which for some greens takes only a few days, they are taken to the ponds in the greenhouse. The boards have openings underneath so the plants' roots can grow down into the water.
Once the plants are grown, the boards are put onto a conveyor belt for harvesting. Then, they're packed and shipped.
"Typically in the U.S., most of the lettuce is grown in Salinas, California, or Yuma, Arizona, and that's just really because they have an awesome climate to grow lettuce," Charlie said. "It's warm almost year-round, and the way our supply chain has worked historically, that just made the most sense, but now that we have this technology that allows us to grow lettuce year-round anywhere in the world, I think the most important takeaway from the tour is that connection between, 'Hey, I've never thought about where my lettuce comes from.' Now, they have a picture in their head. They know what to look for at the store. They understand what we are doing here. It's really building that picture of where your food comes from."
And maybe that will entice you to eat more greens.