Tag Archives: organic produce

Go Green Agriculture Goes with Agra Tech Greenhouse

gogreen_logoGo Green Agriculture is a family-owned farm in Encinitas, CA that grows leafy greens without soil in climate-controlled greenhouses made by Agra Tech, Inc. in Pittsburg, CA,commercial greenhouse manufacturer . The company grows lettuce, kale, spinach and basil year-round by carefully manipulating the light, humidity, temperature and nutrients, among other things, to produce ½ million plants for sale every month, through a wide range of retailers, including Barons Market, Safeway and Whole Foods, to name a few.

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Pierre Sleiman excited  about his new Agra Tech greenhouse

Last year, Pierre Sleiman, Jr. was honored as a member of The Champions of Change, a program that was created by the Obama administration as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals, businesses and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Sleiman was honored for doing extraordinary things to assist the next generation of farmers and ranchers, according to the White House.

Sleiman is a member of the board of directors of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and business from UC Riverside and a master’s degree in business from UC San Diego. His idyllic vision is to have regional greenhouse farms all over the country, and eventually, why not the world?

“I can see a time when small greenhouse farms all over the United States will be serving their local communities with fresh vegetables and fruit,” Sleiman said. “We could vastly reduce the need of cross-country or international transportation that costs money, shelf life (time) and pollutes our earth with truck emissions. I’m not suggesting that all products can necessarily be grown locally and still be viable economically, but many crops surely can. With today’s technology, it’s possible… and we’re doing it.”

From the very beginning, Sleiman was entertaining big ideas while other kids were playing video games or hanging out at the mall. “I was that kid who keeps taking my parent’s radio apart and trying to figure how it works,” he explained. “I also had a dream about integrating technology with agriculture to find better and healthier ways to grow food. I believe that my role is to further integrate information systems technology with greenhouse automation and hydroponics to develop an effective system that will allow farming to be integrated into urban living and therefore create a more sustainable, local and safer food supply.”

Until about a year ago, Go Green was leasing greenhouse space in existing structures, until they decided to purchase a brand-new greenhouse from Agra Tech, Inc. “We searched for greenhouse companies and after talking to several of them, we went with Agra Tech,” Sleiman said. “We like the fact that they are located here in California, for one. And we wanted to have a greenhouse that we could customize and pretty much start from scratch and that’s what we got from Agra Tech.”

Another factor that swayed the Sleimans in Agra Tech’s direction was their customer service and specifically, their Agra Tech rep, Jim Bergantz. “The people at Agra Tech definitely made the difference and the customer service has been great since day one. Jim Bergantz will drive here to help us at the drop of a dime and it’s at least a 10-hour drive. He was willing to sit down with us and find a solution that was ideal for what we were trying to do and today our greenhouse looks gorgeous and we couldn’t be happier.”

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Agra Tech Continental greenhouse in production

 

By: Edmund Attanasio

Safe Haven Heirloom Farms Grows and Helps Young Farmers to Blossom

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture

Learning in an Agra Tech greenhouse

Learning important life skills in an Agra Tech greenhouse

By focusing on providing top quality heirloom, non-hybrid produce, Safe Haven Heirloom Farms in Orosi, CA grows a wide range of vegetables, including heirloom tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash and more. They also produce heirloom seeds, raise organic beef and chicken and are presently experimenting with raising tilapia at their farm. Currently, Safe Haven Heirloom Farms uses greenhouses donated by Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses and greenhouse growing systems. Agra Tech has stepped up to help this farm and guided them through the process of growing produce in soil bags using ATI greenhouses.

Led by Bryan and Karla Barnes, Safe Haven Heirloom Farms grows everything naturally and sustainably, but maybe one of the most important things they do is teach and mentor students through Growing with Torah, a program in which they have dramatically impacted the lives of young people in this agricultural training school that starts with the beginning of the growing season in March, and ends in the fall with the Feast of Tabernacles Harvest Festival. In this program, students plant, grow, and harvest produce for weekly boxes of high quality, non-GMO, heirloom produce, that are then distributed to those in California who purchase shares.

Bryan Barnes loves being an heirloom farmer, but his life’s mission and calling is much more than that. “Life on the farm is full of opportunity to learn and teach important life skills–like hard work, dedication to detail, patience, tenacity and humility and a work ethic—they’re all important. It has been said that if you can be a farmer you can do anything. At Growing with Torah, we are all about getting back to our roots, and it is a rewarding experience to see this come to life in our student volunteers as they get their hands dirty and get involved in Growing in Torah.”

Safe Haven Heirloom Farms is a CSA farm, which means it practices Community Supported Agriculture. In this business model, the community supports small farmers and enables them to grow. “In another sense people become partners with their farmer, “Barnes said. “That way the community can rest assured that they’ll always receive, quality fresh produce that has been grown in a way they want it grown. In our country today, extremely large farms are the norm and ‘production’ type of farming is the standard. This also includes GMO and hybrid seeds that companies like Monsanto are now patenting. Now more than ever, small farmers are growing a large variety of produce and that’s why people who believe in this way of growing should partner with us.”

Since 2011, Barnes has been attending the annual World Ag Expo and each year Agra Tech has given its demonstration greenhouse to Safe Haven Heirloom Farms for free. The farm grows 30-40% of its produce in its Agra Tech greenhouses, using one 20’ x 60’ greenhouse; another 20’ x 100’ greenhouse and their newly-added 25’ x 35’ Agra Tech Thermolator greenhouse.

“Agra Tech’s Jim Bergantz and the rest of the professionals at ATI have been incredible to donate these greenhouses to us,” Barnes explained. “They’ve quickly become a big part of what we’re doing here at Safe Haven Heirloom Farms and without them and their generosity, we could not be doing what we’re doing now. ATI is helping us to make our farm and our program strong and that’s why it’s growing in so many ways. Jim has been very encouraging and very supportive. He took a look at our farm and offered us some very valuable advice. But importantly, he’s just been here when we need him. Our relationship with Agra Tech has been a miracle and an amazing experience. It’s a great company and their people are exceptional.”DSCN3400

In this program, students plant, grow, and harvest produce for weekly boxes of high quality, non-GMO, heirloom produce, that are then distributed to those in California who purchase shares.

In this program, students plant, grow, and harvest produce for weekly boxes of high quality, non-GMO, heirloom produce, that are then distributed to those in California who purchase shares.

Dr. Matthew Stong Sets Greenhouse Growers for Success

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When greenhouse farmers require some much-needed help and sage advice, they call a doctor. But he’s not a medical doctor—he’s an agricultural doctor and one of the leading experts on the subject of indoor farming in the world today. By working with greenhouse growers all over the world, Dr. Matthew Stong, Ph.D., is making the planet a healthier place to live, by teaching indoor farmers the importance of organic, sustainable and environmentally-conscious growing techniques. He is the Chief Science Officer at EcoFarms International in Redwood City, CA, a global facilitator of sustainable organic agriculture. Over the years, Dr. Stong has developed a mutually beneficial business relationship with Agra Tech, Inc., in Pittsburg, CA, a company that manufactures commercial greenhouses and provides affordable solutions to Dr. Stong and his greenhouse clients.

Dr. Stong knows the greenhouse industry like the back of his hand and that’s why people from all over the world use him for assistance in establishing greenhouse operations and setting them up for success. He advises his clients on how to set up their greenhouses; identifying the best crops to grow in their particular regions and even assists them in finding viable markets for each. It’s been a winning formula for many years and his list of happy customers is a testament to his knowledge and passion for greenhouse growing and sustainable organic agriculture.

Dr. Stong, 41, has an impressive resume, including his experience with the World Bank and later as a consultant for the prestigious Mandarin Group in China, a controlled environment agricultural engineering company. During his work in China, Dr. Stong designed, built and managed greenhouse hydroponics-based operations. In addition, he was a visiting researcher/lecturer at the Taiwan National University under the USDA’s International National Needs Fellows Program. Dr. Stong holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Arizona and a M.S. degree in Soil and Water Science from the University of California. He focuses mainly on the scientific and technical issues within EcoFarms and responsible for the transformation of capital – be it monetary, intellectual, or political – into technology in furtherance of the company’s objectives.

Dr. Stong is a consultant, but he also is a greenhouse farmer himself, managing and producing organic crops out of two acres containing two large Agra Tech greenhouses in New Mexico. At EcoFarms International, the mission is to further develop and embody the global development of socially conscious and sustainable agriculture.

“Our controlled-environment greenhouse biosystems provide the optimal foundation from which to build sustainable, locally-grown, organic produce,” EcoFarm’s website stated. “By growing delicious, nutritious organic produce all year round with minimal environmental impact and carbon foot print is definitely the future of food production in the world. More and more people are seeking out high quality, wholesome foods that are both local, sustainable and 100% free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We’re producing premium organic vegetables and fruits that have been picked ripe and delivered fresh for optimal flavor and nutritional value. We will improve the carbon foot print of food from farm to table by integrating state of the art technology and distribution systems.”

The organic foods business is the fastest growing segment in US agriculture, according to EcoFarms International. Currently the demand for organic foods is 10 times greater than what is being produced. In 2008, this industry produced $23 billion in sales and is estimated to grow at a rate of 18% per year. Fresh fruits and vegetables represent 39% percent of this huge market and are forecast to increase in sales by 83% in the next ten years.

DR. Stong is a strong believer in the theory that if you build a greenhouse growing environment that produces good food, people will seek it out, and that’s why he enjoys getting greenhouse growers started in the business, he said. “My entire philosophy is by providing assistance and information to small greenhouse growers,” Dr. Stong said. “We can provide a very valuable tool for them by allowing them access to our knowledge and experience. Smaller greenhouse farmers can’t afford big greenhouse consultants, and that’s why we keep our prices affordable. The new trend is moving toward more small greenhouses in different locations, as opposed to larger greenhouse operations in one location. That way, there’s more variety and more quality.”

Dr. Stong has been working with Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading commercial greenhouse companies, for several years and respects the manufacturer for its vast knowledge and excellent customer service. “I really appreciate working with the Pound family, the owners of Agra Tech,” Stong explained. “Their service, support and entire approach to this industry definitely set them apart from their competitors, and that’s why I work with Agra Tech.”

Dr. Stong also likes the fact that Agra Tech makes affordable greenhouses of all sizes, in order to accommodate farmers both large and small. “I have discovered that Agra Tech’s prices are probably the best in the industry,” Dr. Stong said. “In addition, their delivery is top-notch. If I order something and I need it in a pinch, the people at Agra Tech make sure that I will get it as quickly as humanly possible. If something needs to be fixed, for example, I can get things from them within 3-4 days, and that means a lot.”

By Ed Attanasio