US: Lettuce fosters agriculture in Pulaski County

Pulaski County is a field of agricultural opportunity that is progressively changing toward diversified growth. The Pulaski County Community Development Commission has been working for the past several years to cultivate the county's potential by supporting farm diversification projects that are becoming essential for farmers to increase revenue and positively impact the community. 

According to the USDA, Pulaski County is home to more than 540 farms and 231,880 acres of farmland, or about 80% of the county land. The land is also suitable for mint fields and a one-of-a-kind facility, Eden Valley Farms, in the Francesville area.  

"It's one of the few, if not the only, major scale projects where it is more diversified agricultural growth than row crops," said Pulaski County Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan P. Origer. "This is not only the only hydroponic farm, as far as I'm aware of, but it's the only major scale new and unique farm in the local agricultural economy. This is pretty unique to Pulaski County and the region."

Eden Valley Farms CEO Joel Putt and General Manager Trevor Putt, fourth-generation Pulaski County farmers, created the business in 2019. They typically grow corn, soybeans, and hogs but were looking to diversify the farm operation. The idea began with aquaculture but soon evolved into growing leafy greens with aquaculture. 

"It shifted to just leafy greens so we could focus on a set of product lines," Trevor Putt said. "We visited a farm in Canada, and we really fell in love with the concept. We felt like it was a natural progression for us to continue to grow crops but to bring it indoors." 

While the idea continued to form, the two realized that the Midwest relied heavily on the West Coast's lettuce produce. The lettuce could also be grown more efficiently with less water. Finding a site for the business took about two years, with the groundbreaking for the facility in March of 2020 and finishing the construction in February of 2021. Planting began in March of this year, and the product was shipped in April. 

"One of the reasons that we wanted to go to a larger scale was to capture the attention of the larger retail stores and provide that volume, but also we wanted this to be a bigger project than our family. We wanted it to be a project that could impact the community and provide jobs," Putt said. "Pulaski County was our first choice because we wanted to do something in the county that we grew up in. We wanted to see the tax dollars and the support of the business to come back to Pulaski County."  

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