Tag Archives: commercial agriculture

David Blonksy Talks about Greens & Gills

David Blonsky talked about aquaponics, micro greens and working with Greens & Gills today during Social Media Week.  Thanks, Blonsky!

More Basil, More Problems? Not Really.

The basil got harvested today to go out to restaurant clients of ours, so I thought I would take some pics early this morning before they came out of the system…If you notice Siena Tavern’s pasta sauce tasting even better than it already is (yes, hard to imagine!!), that’s because they are now using Greens & Gills’ fresh, local basil.  #hardtobeat


6 Week Old Basil
6 Week Old Basil


Look at those beauties!
Look at those beauties!


Harvesting some French Sorrel
Harvesting some French Sorrel




Basil Bonanza…

Our basil varieties are really taking off!  Take a look (sorry in advance about the lighting…the Metal Halides make the lighting look funky)…




Local vs. Organic – why not both?

It’s a debate that contains two major buzzwords of the last decade at the forefront of the conversation.

This TIME article from 2007 presents the debate perfectly – the author, who lives in New York, has the choice of an organic apple grown in California or a “nonorganic” apple (the author declares, ‘which was labeled conventional, since that sounds better than “sprayed with pesticides that might kill you.”‘) which was grown right in the state of New York. Such decisions to make…

While the organic apple might have higher nutritional value and be healthier for the author, he found himself also wondering “How much Middle Eastern oil did it take to get that California apple to me? Which farmer should I support–the one who rejected pesticides in California or the one who was, in some romantic sense, a neighbor? Most important, didn’t the apple’s taste suffer after the fruit was crated and refrigerated and jostled for thousands of miles?

Neither the idea of local production of crops nor organic methods of crop production are fads. These concepts have permeated into mainstream food retailers, mainstream media, chefs, foodies, policy-makers and consumers’ daily lives. In all likelihood, both movements are here to stay. With that in mind, how do we mitigate the great debate?

Greens & Gills’ answer is simple: Consumers should have the best of both worlds. Greens & Gills’ focus is on this exact concept – local, sustainable and organic agriculture. Consumers of Chicago and other markets have every right to buy food that is the most nutritious for them while creating the lowest environmental impact as possible. We like to think of it as “Guilt-Free Eating.” After all, that’s how all eating should be, right?

In Cold Blood, We Trust!

Food Safety is a growing concern for consumers around the globe.  In the past two decades we have seen a dramatic spike in food-borne disease and illness from leafy greens.  We all remember the major spinach recall of 2006. Last May, an E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce linked to Freshway Foods caused more than 19 people to get sick.  Read here for more details… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/06/lettuce-recall-e-coli-pos_n_566956.html

Some people are quick to point out that the increase in food-borne illness linked to leafy greens correlates directly to the rise in leafy green consumption (by volume and per capita).  While this rise in consumption is true, the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA points to the quantitative data:

“During the 1986-1995 period, U.S. leafy green consumption increased 17 percent from the previous decade. During the same period, the proportion of food-borne disease outbreaks due to leafy greens increased 60 percent. Likewise, during 1996 to 2005, leafy green consumption increased 9 percent, and leafy green-associated outbreaks increased 39 percent,” researcher Michael Lynch, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a prepared statement.

The data suggests that the rise in food-borne disease outbreaks cannot be directly correlated to the rise in leafy green consumption.

Personally speaking, I know most of my peers (and I would feel confident saying that the majority of consumers) think of uncooked meat when they think of food-borne disease.  Consumers would probably be shocked to learn that…

Leafy Greens are only second behind Poultry in cases of food-related disease from 2003-2007…

Causes of illness in 1,335 single food outbreaks, 2003-2007.

The CDC website goes on to add: “Food-related diseases affect tens of millions of people, kill thousands, and cause billions of dollars in health care-related costs each year. Reducing food-borne illness by just 1% would keep about 500,000 Americans from getting sick each year; reducing food-borne illness by 10% would keep 5 million from getting sick.”

In keeping our microscope focused on leafy greens, let’s address how food-borne disease is contracted via leafy greens.  Handling of the leafy greens post-harvest, specifically during the processing of the greens, can transmit the pathogens.  Bacteria suspend themselves in the wash water used to rinse the “Ready to Eat” bagged greens that consumers have come to love.  Bacteria attached to the leafy greens also present a major problem.  This problem starts in the fields of agriculture…

Field crops are susceptible to contamination by warm-blooded animal manure (the carrier of food-borne pathogens and disease) from: cow pasture run-off, manure amendments to soil as fertilizer, birds flying overhead, rodent and other warm-blooded creatures running through the acres of growing leafy greens.  This warm-blooded animal excrement can contaminate the leaves of the growing produce and transmit the pathogens to its end-consumer.

Both Controlled Environment Agriculture and Aquaponics provide viable solutions to eliminate the risk of any contamination.  CEA prevents birds, rodents and any animals from accessing our growing crops.  We keep them out, we keep food-borne pathogens out!  Aquaponics utilizes fish waste as fertilizer for the growing produce.  If we take ourselves back to 7th grade biology, we recall that fish are cold-blooded animals.  As you might have figured out by now, fish waste DOES NOT and CANNOT carry the food-borne pathogens that the CDC’s data shows to be a growing concern.

Am I suggesting that every agribusiness switch from field crop to aquaponics?  Hardly.  That is never going to happen.  My suggestion is that consumers make a conscious effort to buy more from local farms – where they can visit the operations, talk to the grower and literally “feel” the safety of the operation.  With a few large agri-firms controlling our produce system, we are at their mercy.  We have no control over eating contaminated leafy greens.  That is, unless you buy local and from farms that can be trusted as to their production process and their post-harvest processing and handling of the leafy greens.  Some people are willing to take the risk.  I, for one, am not.

Agri-tain Yourself

1 out of 3 people in the United States did some form of agritourism (aka “agritainment”) last year.  Our internet’s source of all reliable sources (48.7% of the time), Wikipedia, explains agritourism as:

Agritourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally-based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. Agritourism has different definitions in different parts of the world, and sometimes refers specifically to farm stays, as in Italy. Elsewhere, agritourism includes a wide variety of activities, including buying produce direct from a farm stand, navigating a corn maze, picking fruit, feeding animals, or staying at a B&B on a farm[1].

Agritourism is a form of niche tourism that is considered a growth industry in many parts of the world, including Australia[2], Canada [3], the United States [4], and the Philippines [5]. Agritourism overlaps with geotourism, ecotourism, and culinary tourism. Other terms associated with agritourism are “agritainment”, “value added products,” “farm direct marketing”, and “sustainable agriculture”.”

This is fun for all ages agritainment
Pumpkin Picking is agritaining.
Wine tours are agritaining (and agritoxicating!)
this is agritainment

The locavore movement is strong and building momentum by the day.  More and more consumers are interested in seeing, touching, KNOWING how the local farm that they support operates.  With the rising concerns of food safety in the United States and globally, agritourism affords the consumer an opportunity to see how their food is grown, raised, packaged and even in some cases, processed.  In the case of Greens & Gills and controlled environment agriculture ventures, our consumer, wholesale buyers, health inspectors, regulators can all see the cleanliness of our greenhouse operations and rest assured that they are eating the safest of food, coming from our “hospital-like” facilities.

For small farm operators, agritourism provides an additional income stream and doubles as a unique marketing tool for their business and product.  In most circumstances, it is a win-win situation for all parties involved!  Greens & Gills will be offering educational tours for school groups, public tours and private tours of our facility for reasonable prices.  Individuals can buy our aquaponic produce and fish for retail prices right at our farm stand and also go home with some great G&G merchandise!  Stay tuned…

Next time you are trying to think of something fun to do with your significant other, your children, your friends, LETTUCE AGRITAIN YOU!

We want you!!