Eating locally has become all the more important to me in the past few years. The more I've gotten educated about nutrition and food practices, the more I've learned what is actually important versus what is just a buzzword. Eating locally has become a bit of a trendy thing, and people lump it into a bunch of healthy buzz words alongside "organic" "all-natural" "plant-based" "non-GMO." Consumers see those words and associate whatever they're buying to be healthy... but that's not exactly true.
Today, I want to share with you guys some things I've learned over the years about eating locally grown produce, and how to navigate those labels so that your dollar actually goes towards what matters and not just marketing speak. My good friend and fellow blogger Jules, of Om and the City (check out her post on our experience HERE), and I teamed up with Gotham Greens to talk about the importance of this and more about their innovative urban farming practices that allow them to grow their greens right here in NYC. I had met some of their team at the Food Loves Tech Expo last summer when I was doing a demo for feedfeed, and loved what I learned-- this partnership has been a long time coming!
***ALSO, while their rooftop greenhouses are not accessible to the public (gotta keep that lettuce germ-free!), Gotham Greens will offer free tours from their observation deck at their Gowanus Greenhouse every week starting this week! You can learn and experience the magic for yourself-- SIGN UP HERE. ***
Choosing to buy from local farmers and brands means:
- You get the most nutrients: When your food is coming from a closer geographical distance, it spends less amount of time between its roots to your plate. Produce is living, so the minute it separates from the ground or its roots, it begins to deteriorate. Food imported from other states or countries is usually older, sat in travel-time, freezers, and distribution centers, all before reaching your market. In the case of the Gotham Greens Gowanus location, the greens don't have to even leave the building when its sold right to the Whole Foods downstairs!
- You get the most flavorful produce: Local foods are picked at their peak of ripeness, and the transportation is lessened, therefore it doesn't spend time flying cross-country to get to you. Local farmers also harvest seasonal product, which provides for the most flavorful food of all.
- You support the local economy: This one is pretty straightforward, but the more you support local businesses, the more money that gets put back into your community.
-You support the environment: Depending on where you are, eating locally has different effects on the environment. Greens grown right in New York that hit the shelves in New York have a lot smaller of an environmental footprint than greens grown in Arizona that get transported via truck using gas, having to be extra sanitized using more water and chemicals, due to the higher contamination of being shuttled around so much. Gotham Greens's amazingly innovative urban farming practices massively downsizes their carbon footprint.
First of all, I think it's pretty rad that I as a New Yorker, can get non-GMO (no messing around with genetic modification), pesticide-free greens that are grown right in my city-- not even upstate! I had always loved that about Gotham Greens, and it was the reason why I chose to buy them at Whole Foods-- but after learning about how sustainable their farming practice are and how little waste happens at their greenhouses compared to conventional dirt farms, I am a fan for life. So what exactly makes this brand so special and why won't I shut up about it (seriously, I think I gushed about this day to all my friends for 3 days straight)?
What makes Gotham Greens the cream of the crop:
The most obvious differentiation about Gotham Greens + urban farming compared to traditional farming is the fact that there's no soil. Instead, the little seedlings are germinated in little pods, and then transferred to these hollow structures where irrigation (water) systems are used to feed the pods the minerals and moisture that it would ordinarily get from soil. BUT with soil, water just seeps in and doesn't even necessarily go to the plant itself, but the soil around it-- here, the water is recycled because it recirculates in its own system, so there is a massive difference in how much water they are able to conserve. By massive, I mean this irrigation water system allows them to use 1/10th the amount of water as traditional soil-based agriculture, but with 20-30x the yield!
This also requires less space overall, so they don't have to destroy natural environments to plant farms. Their 170,000+ square feet of urban rooftop greenhouses across 4 facilities churn out far more than traditional soil based farms-- for example, their 1/2 acre Gowanus greenhouse produces the same amount of greens as a 10 acre soil based farm. That's just insane to me! And electricity? Hello, solar panels and advanced technology to use 100% renewable electricity to keep temperature regulation at all four of their greenhouses. They clearly don't like waste here, and it's amazing.
When it comes to pest control, they don't like the little buggers that eat through your lettuce and make those annoying holes either. Who wants that?! But rather than use harmful chemical-laden pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides, Gotham Greens actually introduces the beneficial kind of insects that eat the harmful little guys. Ah, the cycle of life! But truly, it works better because the lettuce I get from Gotham Greens is beautifully intact and tender-- nothing worse than lettuce that falls apart when trying to eat a lettuce wrap because its full of holes.
The thing that shocked me was learning that the organic, triple-washed stuff I used to buy, isn't all that cracked up to be. Firstly, I've long said that the label of "organic" doesn't mean as much as people think it does-- plenty of local farmers are practicing even more ethical practices than "organic-certified" farms, but just don't have the resources to pay $20k+ per year to maintain a certificate just to put the word "organic" on their product. BUT. The triple-washing thing! I've always been OCD about food safety, but turns out that this triple-washing business is usually also water laced with chemicals-- plus, introducing your greens to those powerful washing machines are the reason why your greens go bad and slimy in the fridge in 2 days. Moisture is the death of those greens, so I'd much rather have those natural little critters take care of my pests than chemical water. My greens from Gotham Greens have lasted over a week with not a single slimy leaf so far, AND there's no dirt to wash off, because they don't use dirt😊
It is truly incredible how much thought is given to each aspect of the farming. Gotham Greens manages to achieve that delicate balance of environmentally-conscious, quality, flavor, healthy practices for consumers, and innovation. No wonder Jules and I became the biggest dorks in the world during our entire visit, as evidenced by our goofy photos and many Instagram Stories we took. We were like little kids in Disneyland, so excited to see and learn more about a wonderful brand we both have supported for years. If you guys want to see it for yourself (it's gorgeous to boot), book your spot for an observational deck tour here.
Okay, now for more photos of their amazing greens from our visit, and also the wee little baby basils germinating into little plants! Got to take a little basil seedling cube home, and I planted it in its little own pot as my latest plant baby. Jules named hers Bae and I named mine Mozzerella (Mozz, for short😂 we've hit peak nerd-dom), and we are going to have a pizza party with them in the summertime. Also, Gotham Greens just came out with a vegan pesto that I'm so excited to try-- stay tuned, I'll be sure to post it to Instagram when I do.
A very special thanks to Gotham Greens for partnering on this post + the educational tour!
All opinions are of completely of my own, and I'm a braggart because I truly love this brand.
Much love and thanks to Victoria Morris, who turned unflattering greenhouse lighting into gorgeous photos!
All professional greenhouse photos are courtesy of Victoria, while the at-home greens photos and iPhone photos are mine.