Image for Eating Local Year-Round

Frigid temperatures, frozen ground, frosty breath. It’s nearly inconceivable that eating locally-grown produce during Minnesotan winters is possible. Local hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic farmers have proved otherwise. Producers like Living Waters in Wells, Minn. (hydroponic tomatoes), Living Greens Farm in Faribault, Minn. (aeroponic salad greens and microgreens), and Urban Organics in Saint Paul, Minn. (aquaponic salad greens) provide Mississippi Market Co-op shoppers with an abundance of locally grown food not only during our cold winter months, but also throughout the year. Living Waters grows over 7,000 tomato plants a year, Living Greens produces over 1 million heads of lettuce annually, and Urban Organics currently harvests up to 15,000 pounds of salad greens a month.

How is this possible? Through the scaling up of ancient agricultural techniques using efficient modern technologies such as modular grow towers and full-spectrum LED grow lights. All three of these producers grow indoors in warehouses or greenhouses, reducing the effects of agricultural variables such as temperature swings, pests, and natural disasters on plant growth. As a result, no herbicides or pesticides are needed, resulting in healthy, nutritious crops grown in a controlled manner.

Environmental benefits include reduced land and water use in comparison to soil-based agriculture. According to Living Greens, these systems use up to 95 percent less water than conventional agriculture since they recycle and reuse it instead of allowing it to evaporate or runoff. These recirculating systems also allow food to be produced, harvested, packaged, shipped, and consumed all within the same geographic area, reducing fossil fuel use needed for transportation and distribution. Vertical growth using towers, trellises, and multi-tiered racks maximizes space while lessening total operational square footage. And Urban Organics’ historical reuse of well-known Minnesota brewery complexes, including the Hamm’s Brewery on Saint Paul’s East Side and the Schmidt Brewery on West 7th Street, have lessened the environmental impacts of urban redevelopment.

Hydroponics: The process of growing and cultivating plants with roots submerged in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. Derived from the Greek words “hydro” (water) and “ponos” (labor).

Aeroponics: A subcategory of hydroponics; the process of growing plants in an oxygen-rich air environment supported by a soil-less aggregate and misted, nutrient-rich water. Derived from the Greek words “aer” (air) and “ponos” (labor).

Aquaculture: Also known as fish farming; refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of aquatic organisms in all types of water environments, including rivers, lakes, oceans, ponds, and pools.

Aquaponics: A hybrid system of agriculture combining aquaculture and hydroponics in a symbiotic, closed-loop system wherein fish waste is broken down and used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants grown in water.

Intrigued? Learn more at an evening tasting and farmer meet and greet!

Taste Local: Hydroponics

Thursday, March 22 | 6:00–7:00 p.m. | East 7th store

Get to know local Minnesota hydroponic growers Living Greens and Living Waters at an evening tasting. Learn about year-round, water-grown produce; how these growers got started; and what makes them unique. Come sample delicious varieties of local hydroponic greens and tomatoes right here at your co-op!