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US (TX): Indoor grower farms new workers for agriculture through desk-job benefits

The first time Stacia Lewis stepped into the massive greenhouse with 18-foot-high walls of romaine and butterhead lettuce, they knew they had to work there. "It was just like I'm walking into Willy Wonka's factory or something," Lewis told Business Insider. "It looked like everything I had ever wanted."

That was three years ago at Eden Green Technology, and Lewis got the job. They'd never considered a career in agriculture even after having grown up wandering through the hoop houses that dot their aunt's homestead. But Eden Green, which uses a high-tech system for growing staples like arugula lettuce and cooking greens like kale and chard in Cleburne, Texas, where Lewis was raised, won them over.

One of Eden Green's aims is to remove some of the unpredictability of farming by doing it indoors in soaring greenhouses stacked with rows of greens. The company is also trying to take on another challenge many farms face: finding enough workers. To do that, Eden Green wants to make agriculture feel like other careers. It offers health insurance and paid leave, and it recently introduced a 401(k) — benefits not always available to traditional farm workers.

Part of the idea is to pull in workers like Lewis. Finding employees who might not have thought of ag is important because it's an industry that, like healthcare or retail, often faces trouble drawing enough workers. Eden Green's playbook involves going where the people are. Cleburne, with a population of about 34,000, sits on the edge of the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth region. That means Eden Green can truck produce to nearby grocery distribution centers and operate in an area with a large enough population to attract job candidates. It's a far cry from traditional US farms, which on average span hundreds of acres in rural areas where fewer than one in four Americans live.


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