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Chef Trish Taylor (left) and Steve Duprey (right) stand with a harvest of fresh leafy greens grown right in the parking lot of the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. Emelia Attridge photo.




Growing greens
Grappone Center adds a parking lot greenhouse

01/16/14



 Most Granite Staters were still shoveling out just after the New Year’s storm while executive chef Trish Taylor and Steve Duprey were getting ready to harvest a crop of basil, wheatgrass and lettuce.

Duprey’s latest addition to the Grappone Conference Center in Concord is a repurposed tractor trailer from Freight Farms. It arrived in the parking lot in November, and already fresh leafy greens are ready to harvest.
“Chef said, ‘Give me a garden,’” Duprey said. “I read about this and thought it sounded fascinating, because you don’t have to buy your greens from California in February or January.”
Despite the 15-degree temperatures outside, inside the repurposed trailer it feels and looks more like a jungle. Fans and blowers control air flow, UV lights hang in strips from the ceiling and water drips down the hydroponic pillars to be collected in trays at the bottom and then recycled. 
“This 320 square-foot trailer produces as much as you can produce in an acre of soil,” Duprey said. “We’re still a beta, but we love working with the folks [at Freight Farms].”
Taylor comes in during the week to plant seedlings by taking a short walk from her kitchen to the parking lot greenhouse. The germination process all starts inside the warm and humid trailer-greenhouse. Taylor plants the seeds into nutrient plugs that fit into seedling trays, which then grow in a seedling tank for about one to two weeks, depending on the product. After the seedlings are large enough and show roots, she places the seedlings into a hydroponic pillar that hangs vertically from the ceiling of the trailer. Air blows up the pillar for the plants, UV lights dangle down next to them and water drips down the pillars from above.
“I think it has the potential to revolutionize urban farming,” Duprey said. “We can produce as much in January as we can in July.”
The whole Freight Farm is controlled from a tablet, which monitors nutrients, air control, pH levels and electricity.
Although Taylor does get the first pick of one-third of the crop, the rest of the leafy greens grown and harvested within the trailer will be sold wholesale to businesses like the Concord Food Co-op and Concord’s newest juice and salad shop Live Juice is already placing orders for wheatgrass.
“We never want to replace or supplant any local grower,” Duprey said. “If we can replace or supplant somebody trucking it or flying it from California then we think that’s just fine. … The goal would be to put 10 or 12 of these around the state.”
Currently, crops like basil, parsley, oregano, lettuce greens, swiss chard, wheatgrass, kale and mesculin are all being grown right in the parking lot at the conference center.
Duprey is no stranger to local product. Recently, beehives were installed to the roof of the Grappone Conference Center to harvest fresh, local honey right on the property. The next step is integrating mushrooms and vine crops into the Freight Farm trailer.
“More and more consumers and groups using the conference center want to see a report on your sustainability,” Duprey said. “More people want to have their meals sourced locally, organically and the whole farm to table movement.”  
 

As seen in the January 16th, 2014 issue of The Hippo







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