Sustainability Update by Jenna Keany
Hydroponic Farms have become increasingly more popular in the last two decades, as they can be grown in smaller spaces with less natural resources, making them some of the most environmentally-friendly agricultural methods in use. Instead of each plant resting in soil, plants are either placed on an inert substance (volcanic glass, rock wool, etc.) or suspended in the air, while a solution of nutrients and water flows over the roots. Hydroponic farmers can control the amount of water, oxygen, and nutrients each plant receives, maximizing efficiency. Hydroponics require skilled farmers to know exactly what mix of nutrients each species requires to ensure maximum yields. Benefits of growing hydroponically include dramatically increased productivity per acre, year-round production, reduced food-miles (they can be grown anywhere!), and significantly lower water, fertilizer, and pesticide usage. It is estimated that through the water recycling system, hydroponic farms use 90% less water than traditional farms, and 75% less fertilizers. Cutbacks on fertilizer use reduces the amount of artificial nitrogen and phosphorous from entering local water bodies, which causes destructive algal blooms and eutrophication. Additionally, growing hydroponically can be done just about anywhere, making it easier to supply fresh food year-round, in all climates. Hydroponics can be grown organically, if the correct fertilizers and pesticides are used, however all hydroponics are going to be significantly better for the environment than traditional farming. Therefore, supporting your local hydroponic farms is a win-win in environmental terms and an additional win for supporting small business.
Keany Produce & Gourmet is proud to partner with multiple local, hydroponic farms. Hummingbird Farms in Ridgley, MD has produced the most flavorful tomatoes year-round, and has partnered with Keany for over 20 years. Not only do they limit their use of harsh chemicals used on their tomatoes, they also use predator insects and organic soaps to control pests. Arc Greenhouses in Shiloh, NJ grows mixed micro greens, pea tendrils, and baby lettuces and has partnered with Keany for over 25 years. Growing hydroponically, Arc Greenhouses is able to produce, in one acre, what would traditionally require 20 to 50 acres of farm land. JC Bean Sprouts in Springfield, VA, has provided bean sprouts and Tofu for Keany Produce for over 20 years. This hydroponic farm grows, harvests, washes, dries, and packages each product in house, and is located only 26 miles from Keany’s facility in Maryland. Fresh2o growers in Stevensburg, VA, is a new partnership with Keany, supplying local, hydroponically-grown lettuces in eight different varieties. Fresh2o is a family-owned business that started in 2013, and has been steadily producing top-quality lettuce from their 12 acre facility ever since. And finally, Keany is proud to partner with Baywater Farms, located in Salisbury, MD. Not only does Baywater produce field-grown heirloom vegetable varieties, but they also grow lettuce, microgreens, and herbs hydroponically in a half acre greenhouse on the property. At Keany Produce & Gourmet, we are proud to partner with all of our local farms, especially those using environmentally-friendly methods such as hydroponics!