Container Farm at Historic Colorado Ranch Will Grow Produce for Guests

A historic dude ranch in the mountains of Colorado is using a high-tech container farm to broaden its focus on farm-to-table options for guests.

Having been in business for 102 years, C Lazy U Ranch in Granby has a storied reputation as a luxurious, year-round mountain getaway with 8,500 acres of land for a multitude of activities. The ranch’s culinary program is also well known for its ability to craft the perfect meal, and some of the fresh leafy greens that come with those meals will soon be grown on site in an automated Vertical Hydroponic Farm built by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods.

“We saw an opportunity with FarmBox Foods to essentially have a year-round farm-to-table option,” said Paul Klees, assistant general manager of C Lazy U Ranch.

Guests and members will have the opportunity to tour the futuristic, controlled-climate farm — based inside a repurposed shipping container — and see where the food they’re eating is grown. C Lazy U Ranch is planning to grow lettuce and culinary herbs inside the 320-square-foot farm, where the entire growing process, from seed to harvest, takes place. The sensor-based technology and insulation in the container farm are superior to greenhouses, which are susceptible to the bitter cold of the Colorado Rockies, Klees said.

Purchasing a Vertical Hydroponic Farm is “just another step in the ranch’s continuing effort to create authentic farm-to-table dining,” Klees said.

“There are economic aspects to it because we’re shipping in all of the food, including produce,” he said. “When guests eat at our restaurants, we want the meals to resonate with them, and what people are looking for is healthy, organic, fresh produce.”

The 200 horses on the property already benefit from C Lazy U’s sustainable approach to food sourcing; most of the hay they eat is grown on the ranch. C Lazy U is also supplied with water by its own spring and operates its own wastewater facilities.

The exterior of the container farm will be finished with a rustic scheme so it will easily blend in with its natural surroundings, which include a creek and historic structures.

C Lazy U began tending beehives last year, and Klees described the move as a “huge win” because both tours and ranch honey have become popular among visitors. The container farm is slated to be the next hands-on attraction at the ranch, where guests and members could have the opportunity to harvest their own veggies and prepare meals with a chef.

“It’s interactive, it’s educational, and it builds into our vision and mission statement of having a sustainable model,” Klees said.

Using Blackhawk Equipment for prefabrication, RK Mission Critical for manufacturing and assembly, and Absolute Logistics for transport, the container farm is scheduled for delivery in mid-August.

Natural Grocers Growing Its GardenBox Program

GardenBox manager harvesting lettuce

Lakewood, Colo.Michael Boardman knows it takes exactly 82 steps to get from the GardenBox to the produce display at Natural Grocers’ store in Green Mountain – Lakewood.

Boardman manages the first of what could eventually be more Natural Grocers GardenBoxes, a shipping container-based farm that grows several organic lettuce varieties right behind the store it supplies. That means instead of spending about 10 days going from a farm to a distribution center to a truck to a display case — losing about half of its nutritional value and shelf life in the process — the fresh greens go immediately from the container farm to the aisle.

That’s how Boardman knows it takes precisely 82 steps to walk to what ends up being a vibrant, colorful produce display: he’s done it a few times.

The use of a GardenBox could be a sign of what’s to come. More retailers (and consumers, for that matter) that specialize in healthy living are learning that produce doesn’t need to be shipped in from elsewhere. Natural Grocers is taking its pilot program to the next level, with the help of Colorado-based FarmBox Foods, an innovative company that designs, builds and sells the automated, controlled-climate container farms.

Boardman is creating the GardenBox playbook from scratch. He spent weeks developing a nutrient blend that allows Natural Grocers leafy greens to maintain their certified organic status, while enabling the produce to thrive in a hydroponic farm. So far, the company has tried 8 types of lettuce with great success.

To help promote the idea of produce growing outside the store where it’s sold, Natural Grocers gave away about 1,000 heads of lettuce in late June. The produce is now being sold at the Green Mountain – Lakewood location.

“People have loved it. They have been really impressed with it. It’s definitely a much better tasting green, and it’s fresher,” he said.

Boardman, who has spent 8 years with Natural Grocers and also has a background as a produce buyer, said there are “very few products on the market that are living,” pointing out that shoppers who buy heads of lettuce grown in a GardenBox can actually keep them alive in water until they’re eaten.

From alkindus, brentwood to hampton lettuce and mirlo lettuce, there’s plenty to be excited about. Boardman, who particularly enjoys the incredibly flavorful Marciano red butterhead lettuce grown in the GardenBox, says his favorite aspect of the process has been learning what works best to get the plants to thrive.

“Figuring out the solution to it, how to do this organically and sustainably, and watching this grow and be successful has been the best part,” he said.

The Vertical Hydroponic Farm used to grow the produce can simultaneously hold about 11,000 plants in various stages of growth, including about 7,000 seedlings. The plants go from seed to harvest all within the 320-square-foot space in the GardenBox purchased from FarmBox Foods. It’s a game-changer for helping decentralize the food supply chain and empowering individual communities.

To learn more, go to www.naturalgrocers.com/gardenbox. For more information about FarmBox Foods, visit www.farmboxfoods.com.

Ongoing Shipping Logjam Makes a Case for Decentralized Food Supply

SEDALIA, Colo. – A post-pandemic resurgence in sales across multiple industries has put an unprecedented strain on shipping, and the logjam shows few signs of easing. 

In recent months, ships have stacked up at ports worldwide, waiting weeks to deliver their imported goods. Likewise, demand for flatbed trucks and dry vans has skyrocketed, resulting in longer delivery timeframes and significant logistical entanglements. 

 

According to the American Trucking Associations, a national trade association for the trucking industry, manufacturing output is expected to rise by 7.2% in 2021. The transportation system’s capacity is being tested, and for those shipping food, it’s becoming an even tougher task to get goods from point A to point B. The ever-increasing rate of online sales and consumers’ growing expectations of quick delivery have resulted in a reprioritization of what is shipped and when.

 

The American Trucking Associations anticipates a 3.7% rise in food manufacturing this year, and U.S. exports of food could climb as much as 10%. 

 

It’s only in times like these that massive shifts in behavior manifest themselves, and the idea of decentralizing the food supply chain begins to look better and better. For businesses that grow produce in the communities where that food is then consumed, the shipping challenges are a peripheral issue.

 

FarmBox Foods, a Colorado-based company that builds automated farms inside repurposed shipping containers and sends them to food deserts around the world, has had its eye on decentralization from the start. The company’s leaders say empowering communities by placing container farms within a short distance of consumers could have positive ramifications on low-income populations for decades to come, and render supply chain woes inconsequential.

“We’ve got an unpredictable supply chain with a bunch of variables, and the expenses can add up quickly,” said Rusty Walker, CEO of FarmBox Foods and a veteran of the supply chain industry. “Our solution makes things more reliable and eliminates some of these vulnerabilities.”

The strategic placement of controlled-climate container farms in places that have traditionally lacked access to farm-fresh food has side benefits, like lower cost for food, a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels to transport goods, a longer shelf life for the produce, educational opportunities for local populations, and greater nutritional bang for your buck because the fruits and vegetables won’t lose any of their nutritional value while in transit.

It also allows consumers to sidestep the headaches that arise when a backlog in the shipping industry puts everyone else at a standstill.

Non-Profit Organizations & FarmBox Foods

Farming may not seem like an obvious choice for a non-profit organization, but there are huge potential benefits for your organization and the communities you serve when you team up with FarmBox Foods.

Community Engagement

If placed on a school campus, students can enjoy hands-on lessons in agriculture. Children who help to grow fruits, vegetables and mushrooms are not only more likely to eat healthier foods, but they learn about the benefits of a healthy diet. Multiple studies have proven that hands-on learning not only increases test scores but also improves attentiveness in children. There is also the added benefit that the food grown can be sold in the school cafeteria with the proceeds funding extracurricular activities and school clubs.

Employment

You will also have the opportunity to hire local residents to work on the farm providing employment and increasing community involvement with your non-profit organization. Additionally, surplus yields can be sold at a local farmer’s market, providing fresh produce to the community and boosting the local economy.

Tax Exemption

Our farms qualify for tax exemptions under Tax Code 179, one of the few government incentives for small and large businesses alike. This tax code allows businesses to deduct the full price of qualifying equipment from their organization’s gross income in the first year of operation.

Start-up

Don’t know where to begin? FarmBox foods has a highly skilled setup crew that will take care of installing the farm and training your team. We offer training guides, online learning options, and quick guides to help you along the way. Our team is ready to assist you with all aspects of running your new farm, so reach out to us today to get started!