Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Greenhouse Lettuce

Milestone Lettuce Retailers was another exhibitor at the Farm to Table conference. They grow red leaf, green leaf, Bibb and a few other varieties of lettuce in greenhouses in the Pittsburgh Metro area year round. They offer this lettuce in the form of a CSA-type of arrangement of two heads a week April 2 through June 25. The cost is $50 (for 26 heads of lettuce over the 13 weeks). Or you can choose 4 heads a week for $100. There are four pick up spots: Elizabeth Township (at the greenhouse?), 640 McGowan Street, Lawrenceville, Gallery on 43rd -- 187 43rd Street, Wilkinsburg, 600 Ross Avenue, and Monroeville, Enterprise -- 510 Seco Road. I tasted the lettuce at the conference and it was wonderful. Here is a link to a Post-Gazette article about the grower. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08054/859671-47.stm. There are no pesticides and some of the seeds and fertilizers are organic. They are grown hydroponically and when you get the product, it is in a plastic shell with a cube of soil (?) attached, so it is still living. They also sell at some Giant Eagles. And here is a video about it http://www.wqed.org/ondemand/onq.php?cat=15&id=237. Call 412-371-7391, ext. 116 to sign up.

A neat thing about this grower, is that it is actually a nonprofit community mental health and mental retardation agency http://www.aemhmr.org/.

I think they are doing a really neat thing, but I have some questions about the environmental sustainability of the product. Ms. Bayer, at the conference, told me that during the winter they spend $1700 on each gas and electric bills. Also, I don't have happy feelings about the plastic clamshell box though it keeps the lettuce lookin' great. While I was talking to Ms. Bayer, a man from a biodiesel group (whose name I can't remember for the life of me, but his name tag said something about Space Farms, perhaps) came to speak to the director. He has hooked up a greenhouse in Wexford with a biodiesel processing system. Biodiesel, as he explained to me, uses the grease left over from cooking (like from fast food establishments) and turns it into useable energy. Now, that sounds a lot better to me. For more about biodiesel, check out this city paper article. http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A29990. Milestone is not using biodiesel now, but hey, who knows?

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