UK: Stratford welcomes a new kind of farm

A 4,500-square-foot warehouse at 1895 Stratford Ave. will soon be producing six acres worth of fresh veggies for food pantries, farmers markets and commercial customers using indoor, vertical farming methods.

The farm is a project of nOURish Bridgeport, a nonprofit founded in 2010 by the Rev. Sara Smith, senior minister at Bridgeport’s United Congregational Church. During a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday — Fresh Veggie Day — Smith said she grew up working on a 1,000-acre farm in central Kentucky, a land of abundant crops and nutrient-rich soil. 

“Then I arrived in Bridgeport 12 years ago,” Smith said. The Park City isn’t the Sahara, but it can still be a “food desert” when it comes to finding fresh greens. We try to give healthy food to our hungry neighbors, but fresh produce, whether summer or winter, is almost impossible to find at the food bank,” Smith said.

The warehouse-based farm was initially financed through a grant from the Elizabeth Pfreim Foundation, and will feature three different growing methods: 4-by-10-foot “microgreen” rigs, “fork farm” vertical pods with 10 square feet apiece, and a purpose-built freight container farm.

The farm’s continuing operations will be financed by selling produce at farmers markets and food pantries and to commercial customers — with PizzaCo., about 1,500 feet down Stratford Avenue, already committed to be the first in line for the crops.

Smith estimated the farm will be producing about 200 pounds of fresh produce per week by the end of the year in the form of pesticide-free lettuce, baby kale, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and spinach. “Come the end of fall, we’ll be selling vegetables,” she said.

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