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Farm-fresh dining

Residents, chefs visit local farms that provide produce for Greenspring

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September 25th, 2015
Greenspring residents and staff
Greenspring residents and staff

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Recently, in an effort to provide a firsthand look at the origin of their food, Ritt; Chef de Cuisine Robbina Osei-Owusu; and four members of Greenspring’s resident dining services committee, Barbara Kauke, Ivan Ives, Kathryn Ives, and Jim Wamsley, visited two local Maryland farms that provide much of the fresh produce Greenspring community members enjoy.

The two farms, Hummingbird Farms in Ridgely, and Baywater Greens in Salisbury, utilize hydroponic farming methods to supply Coastal Sunbelt Produce that, in turn, delivers the produce to Greenspring. 

“Having moved to Greenspring from New Jersey, the Garden State, two years ago, I thought it would be interesting to view some of the working farms in the area,” says Barbara Kauke. “I had never visited the local farms. I also wanted to see and learn how hydroponic farming works.”

Time to tour

Rising with the sun, the members of the Greenspring tour met at the warehouse of Coastal Sunbelt Produce. After enjoying a continental breakfast, they made the one-and-a-half-hour trip to Hummingbird Farms. The small, one-and-three-quarters-acre farm is home to two greenhouses that grow hydroponic tomatoes. 

“We were given a biology lesson on how the hydroponic tomatoes are grown,” says Barbara. “The tomatoes are planted in rock wool, an inert growing medium, and are irrigated with a closely monitored nutrient solution. Bees are engaged to pollinate the flowers, as there are no breezes in a greenhouse, for the self-pollination that occurs naturally outdoors.”

According to Ritt, hydroponic farming is a growing trend that is highly productive, conserves both water and land, and helps protect the environment. The farming typically takes place inside greenhouses designed to control air and root temperatures, light, water, plant nutrition, and adverse climate.

Utilizing hydroponic farming methods, Hummingbird Farms harvests between 6 and 11 tons of tomatoes a week.

That’s good news for tomato lovers at Greenspring. 

“Our community easily consumes about a ton of tomatoes a week,” says Ritt.

Hummingbird Farms also grows edible flowers, nasturtiums, and pansies used by Greenspring’s catering department.

After a farm-fresh lunch at The Farmer’s Wife Eatery & Farm Market in Hebron, Md., the tour continued at Baywater Greens, a six-generation family farm that recently began growing hydroponic lettuce inside a huge greenhouse.

The group then visited the farmer’s field, home to more than 3,000 traditionally farmed, non-GMO heirloom tomato, cherry tomato, heirloom squash, eggplant, and pepper plants. 

“The tours of the greenhouses and fields by the actual owners/farmers was very impressive,” says Ritt. “Knowing that the items on your plate come from local farms really adds something special to a meal. At Greenspring, we serve the best locally grown produce available.” 

Before leaving Baywater Greens, Ritt and Osei-Owusu decided to purchase some of the items from the day’s harvest to use for an upcoming new-resident dinner.

Smarter, healthier dining

Ritt’s desire to provide the Greenspring community with farm-fresh meals is a part of a growing farm-to-table movement. 

According to “Discovering the Food System, A Primer on Community Food Systems: Linking Food, Nutrition and Agriculture,” published by Cornell University, farm-to-table dining promotes “optimized health and reduces the risk of diet-related chronic diseases, while increasing the enjoyment of food among community members. It also stimulates dietary change that complements the seasonal availability of foods.”

Every other Friday during the spring and summer months, Greenspring hosts a farmers market, alternating between the four community clubhouses.

“We offer fresh-baked goods from our kitchens, including muffins and banana bread,” says Ritt. “We also offer in-season produce from local farms, including tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, berries, zucchini, squash, peaches, pears, and plums.”

Now, in the midst of the fall harvest season, Ritt is excited to provide the Greenspring community with new, fresh, fall menu options. Since returning from the local farms, he’s put together a picture book of the tour for community members to peruse.

“I enjoy sharing our experience with the residents and discussing the local farm-to-table approach that we take seriously here at Greenspring,” he says. “So far, it’s been a hit!”

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