It’s the Midwest. Can fresh, local, organic leafy greens be found?

The story of local innovation to solve a global problem

By Jeff Lande and Nate Hefti

Aquaponics is an ancient practice that combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). With this approach, two separate systems share nutrient rich water — At Superior Fresh, they are raising Atlantic salmon and Steelhead while also growing leafy greens. Their farm recirculates 99.9% of water between the systems, and the .1% of discarded water is collected and used to irrigate alfalfa fields on the property.

Aquaponics is the symbiotic relationship between fish, beneficial bacteria, and plants. In an aquaponics system, water from an aquaculture system is shared with hydroponic system. Thus, allowing the converted by-products to be a usable form of nitrogen and provide nutrients for plants. After the nutrients are utilized by the plants the clean water is recirculated back to the aquaculture system with virtually zero waste. Aquaponics can be very complex. It can prove difficult to manage nitrogen and pH levels in the water, the temperature and humidity in the greenhouse, and the moles of light in the greenhouse without the proven systems and processes in place. Superior Fresh has created an optimal environment to grow fresh organic leafy greens through their use of a recirculating aquaculture system and state of the art greenhouse technology.

Until recently, fresh, local organic leafy greens were transported from across the country to the Midwest. It’s become normal for the leafy greens you purchase from the grocery store to be wilted, outdated, and even unsafe. Recalls and warnings for lettuce and spinach have become far too common. Most leafy greens are grown on the West coast or Mexico and must travel thousands of miles before arriving in the Midwest. By the time it hits the shelf, you’re lucky to get a few days left of decent shelf life. But why?

Superior Fresh is quickly revolutionizing the way food is grown — and providing the Midwest with fresh, local, organic, and sustainable leafy greens. Instead of leafy greens traveling thousands of miles to reach the Midwest, they’re bringing the farm closer to the communities that need it the most. Their mission is to feed the world with healthy, reliable, and high value food products that are produced using sound practices in a safe environment.

Each day, their 3-acre greenhouse produces a multitude of different leafy greens — head lettuce such as romaine and green leaf, baby greens that include spring mix and spinach.

All produce grown at the farm is certified USDA Organic, holding Superior Fresh to the highest of standards. They don’t use any genetically modified inputs and never use pesticides or herbicides.

Because of their unique approach, products are available even in the Winter months, when fresh vegetables grown locally are almost impossible to find. This makes Superior Fresh a great option for the members of the Greenhealth Exchange. The products meet the GX established criteria for local produce and are available to members through the GX agreement with Reinhart Foodservice.