What ‘Supporting Local Farms’ Really Means

We often hear the phrase “Support your local farmers.” But what does that really mean?

Well, it contributes to the economic vitality of local communities in a major way. When consumers choose locally produced goods, they help sustain crucial local farming operations, preserving agricultural land and maintaining rural (and urban) livelihoods. In turn, this fosters a stronger economy by generating employment opportunities and encouraging entrepreneurship within the community.

Supporting local farms also promotes environmental sustainability. Locally sourced produce often requires less transportation, reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance shipping. This can lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a more eco-friendly and sustainable food system. Many local farms prioritize sustainable farming practices, promoting biodiversity and soil health, too. These elements of the operations can’t be overstated.

Buying from local farms often means fresher and more flavorful products as well. Locally grown produce is typically harvested at peak ripeness, offering consumers higher nutritional value and better taste. This connection to fresh, seasonal ingredients can also foster a greater appreciation for the diversity of crops and promote a healthier diet, while ensuring that people have a longer period of time to eat the food before it goes to waste.

Supporting local farms plays a role in maintaining food security. By diversifying the sources of food production and distribution, local communities become less vulnerable to disruptions in global supply chains, like what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic. This localized approach helps build resilience against external factors that could impact food availability and affordability.

In a social context, backing local farms fosters a sense of community. Farmers markets and direct-to-consumer sales allow for direct interactions between producers and consumers, creating a stronger bond and understanding of where food comes from. This connection promotes a shared commitment to sustaining local agriculture and can strengthen community ties.

In short, supporting local farms goes beyond the act of buying food; it’s a holistic investment in the economic, environmental and social well-being of communities. Choosing locally sourced products empowers local farmers, promotes sustainability, enhances the quality of food and contributes to the resilience and cohesion of communities. What more can you ask for?

New Business Grows Mushrooms in Upcycled Shipping Container

A Westfield, Indiana, couple is celebrating the launch of a new business centered around specialty mushrooms that are sustainably grown in a controlled-climate farm.

Mark and Julie Downs harvested their first batch of blue oyster mushrooms in mid-July, just weeks after their innovative, container-based farm was delivered. 

“As a lifelong resident of Westfield, I am excited to bring something new to our growing city,” Mark Downs said. “With the upcycled container farm, we will be able to supply fresh and chemical free gourmet mushrooms year round to restaurants and residences.” 

Having a local mushroom grower means chefs and grocers have access to the freshest product possible. They no longer have to rely on a shaky supply chain or buy mushrooms that have spent several days in transit and are nearing the end of their shelf life.

Downs Farm is already securing partnerships; on July 28-29, the Angry Donkey, a popular bistro and pub in Michigantown, will begin serving salmon mousse-stuffed halibut with blue oyster mushrooms grown in the tech-assisted farm.

The Gourmet Mushroom Farm — designed and built by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods — is run in part by software and hardware specifically designed for indoor growing operations. It allows farmers to control the humidity and temperature, misting and lighting schedules, fresh air exchange, and more. Cultivating mushrooms in an enclosed, food-safe space means there’s no need to use harmful chemicals in the start-to-finish growing process.

Gourmet mushrooms are becoming a big business as consumers increasingly recognize the health benefits of a wide array of mushroom types. They’re often used as a protein in vegan meals, and they’re an unbelievably delicious part of dishes like beef stroganoff, stir fry, risotto and marsala. 

The Downs are growing blue oysters and lion’s mane, and plan to follow market trends for additional varieties as they expand their operation, which is based on acreage property in Westfield.

As owners of Downs Farm, Julie still has her full-time job and Mark is committing all of his time to cultivating mushrooms.

Family-Run Hydroponic Farm Takes Root in Nebraska

A local family is celebrating the launch of a new business centered around serving the Platte Valley community sustainably grown greens using an indoor vertical hydroponic farm.

Thirsty Roots Farm (‘TRF’) is a controlled-climate, water-efficient, tech-assisted vertical hydroponic farm housed inside an upcycled shipping container and is able to grow food year-round.

TRF is a multi generation family business owned and operated by the Kerrs: Jarod, Maggie, Jim, and Nancy. Jarod (2011 Scottsbluff High School alumni) and Maggie Kerr provide the business expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that have brought this innovative vision to life. Jim and Nancy Kerr bring lifelong growing expertise as members of farming families and firsthand knowledge of the Scottsbluff community as residents for over 40 years. Together, they started Thirsty Roots Farm to bring fresh, local, sustainable greens to communities and are starting right here with ROOT 1. This hydroponic farm will look to supply produce to local businesses in order to increase their reach and serve as many people these delicious greens as possible.

As of this week, TRF has launched a partnership with Powerhouse on Broadway, which is located in the City of Scottsbluff and recently opened their doors in January. Unsurprisingly, it is also owned by a longtime local family, Kerri and Dave Schaff. Powerhouse on Broadway specializes in farm-to-table dishes, making Thirsty Roots Farm a premiere partner to serve customers greens grown 4 miles down the road instead of 2,000 miles across the country. The excited growers and chefs have come together to develop specialty salads that will offer patrons a fresh and exciting dining experience. The deep color, variety of textures, and explosion of flavor in the greens combined with the creative vision of the chefs showcase a summer menu to truly be excited about. Also, the flavors extend beyond the salad bowl to their cocktail menu featuring edible flowers and fresh herbs jazzing up their libations. Pro tip: salads and cocktails are best enjoyed on the primetime Powerhouse on Broadway patio right on the new 18th Street Plaza.

The Kerrs are proud to begin their entrepreneurial journey with ROOT 1 to bring nutritious produce to this community that deserves high quality food and introduce a concept whereby residents can access fresh, locally-grown food at their favorite establishments all year long. This vertical hydroponic farm, built by FarmBox Foods, is helping share the family’s passion and experience of growing nutrient-dense, delicious food while celebrating their roots.

As Thirsty Roots Farm broadens its offerings in ROOT 1, it will announce additional partnerships and make items available to customers through its online store. Follow along on their journey by liking ‘Thirsty Roots Farm’ on Facebook, following them on Instagram @ThirstyRootsFarm, or by visiting their website www.ThirstyRootsFarm.com

About Thirsty Roots Farm

Thirsty Roots Farm is sustainability, community, and nutrition conveniently combined into a climate-controlled steel container. We are relentlessly striving to solve the problems of food availability and quality with year-round bountiful harvests as close as your nextdoor neighbor. Through innovation and a dedication to the small-scale farm systems sewn into the roots of our history; Thirsty Roots is empowering small businesses and communities to take the quality and availability of nutritious meals into their own hands.

Edible Beats Announces Hydroponic BeatBox Farms At Vital Root

Edible Beats, the Denver-based restaurant group that includes Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, Ophelia’s and El Five, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Edible Beats, the 100% Employee-Owned Denver-based restaurant group founded by Chef Justin Cucci, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Coined BeatBox Farms, the hydroponic farm fits perfectly into the Edible Beats family, where a love of music and sustainability are at the forefront of every initiative. This specific initiative is a step towards providing all of their restaurants, including Root Down, Vital Root, Linger, El Five and Ophelia’s with their own homegrown fresh produce, adding to their over 50% locally sourced ingredients within Colorado. Embedded in the fabric of Edible Beats restaurants are their commitment to sustainability and waste reduction. From 100% wind-powered buildings, to compostable storage bags and gloves, BeatBox Farms is another step towards reducing packaging waste and lowering their carbon footprint, as it eliminates the shipping of the produce.

Within the 320-square-foot Vertical Hydroponic Farm (VHF), plants will go from seed to harvest and can yield the equivalent of up to 2.5 acres of farmland annually, with the capability to grow 7,800 plants at once. Expecting to harvest 120 lbs of veggies and greens weekly, they will be growing a variety of produce: Red Russian Kale, Runaway Arugula, Tat Soi, Hon Soi, Wasabina Mustard Greens, Scarlet Frills Purple Mustard Greens, Watercress, Basil, Cilantro and Dill. And by filtering and recycling water, BeatBox Farms uses 99% less water than traditional farms, and is committed to being pesticide-free, insecticide-free and fertilizer-free. All factors that allow Edible Beats to avoid groundwater contamination.

At the helm, Edible Beats FarmBox Cultivator and AgriCULTURist, Cori Hunt has had a rich history in the culinary and farming world. After working in Central Illinois to start the first Farm/Restaurant collaboration, Epiphany Farms, Cori says, “I have witnessed the better path first hand. Now I strive to help spread the word of this better path and align myself with likeminded people and groups. That led me to Edible Beats, who have been on the frontlines of this concept in Denver since the conception of Root Down.”

With this kind of local farming, the self contained vertical hydroponic grow system produces 10x more volume year round then the equivalent size of a traditional farm, with a daily consumption of roughly $20 in energy, and only 4 gallons of water per day. Cori shares, “Together we are attempting yet again to break as many molds as possible, pick up the pieces and build a better future.” As a leader in farm-to-table dining, Chef/Founder Justin Cucci has pioneered a culture of sustainability over the years with practices that go well beyond the kitchen. “I really wanted to have a sustainable culture for the employees,” explained Cucci.

This year, Edible beats joined a small handful of restaurants in the country, implementing a pioneering, self-funded 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Rarely seen in the restaurant industry, his 350+ Edible Beats employees will all share in the long-term financial worth of the company, which Cucci calls “the quintessential win-win.”

Meeting Food Production Challenges in the Middle East Head On

Where extreme heat, water scarcity, and limited arable land pose challenges for traditional farming methods, indoor farming presents opportunities for sustainable agriculture and food production. That includes countries like In Saudi Arabia.

One of the biggest advantages of indoor farming in Saudi Arabia is the ability to grow crops year-round, regardless of the outdoor climate. With controlled environments, crops can be grown without being dependent on external weather conditions, making it possible to cultivate a wide variety of crops consistently throughout the year. This can help reduce the country’s reliance on imported fruits and vegetables and increase local food production.

Water scarcity is a critical issue in Saudi Arabia, as the country has been challenged by limited freshwater resources for decades. Indoor farming techniques such as hydroponics and aeroponics, which use significantly less water when compared to traditional soil-based farming, can be particularly advantageous in a water-scarce environment. These methods allow for precise control over water usage, leading to higher water-use efficiency and reduced water waste.

Another benefit of indoor farming in places like Saudi Arabia is the ability to cultivate crops in a pesticide-free environment. By using controlled environments, pests and diseases can be minimized or eliminated without the need for chemical pesticides, reducing the reliance on harmful chemicals and resulting in cleaner, healthier produce.

Indoor farming can also help mitigate the challenges of limited arable land in Saudi Arabia. With vertical farming, crops can be grown vertically, maximizing the use of limited space and enabling higher crop yields per square meter compared to traditional farming methods.

Perhaps the best part is container farms can be deployed where they’re needed, a move that decentralizes food production and limits emissions associated with transporting large amnounts of harvested food over long distances.

There are already some initiatives and projects in Saudi Arabia that are exploring the potential of indoor farming. The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has established the Center of Excellence for Green CEA Technologies, which focuses on research and development of indoor farming technologies. Additionally, several private companies are investing in indoor farming facilities in the country, utilizing advanced technologies and sustainable practices.

The Green Riyadh Project also offers opportunities for indoor growing, this time for trees as part of one of the “most ambitious afforestation projects in the world,” according to the government’s website. The plan is to plant more than 7.5 million trees throughout the city of Riyadh, and FarmBox Foods’ Vertical Hydroponic Farm allows for scalable tree propagation. The tree program is expected to improve air quality, reduce temperatures in the city, and encourage residents to practice a more active lifestyle, helping to meet the goals of the kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030 initiative.

Advancements in science and technology have brought us to this point, and increased awareness of the benefits of indoor farming in the Middle East mean it will continue to gain traction in the coming years.

Innovating and Advancing Through Diversity

The word “diversity” has taken on new meaning and greater significance in recent years, with businesses incorporating goals related to diversity and inclusion into their operations. But what does it really mean, and how is it influencing the trajectory of certain industries?

While some corporations pay lip-service to the idea and implement strategies simply to check a box, its role in CEA (controlled-environment agriculture) is outsized, and there’s widespread recognition that paying closer attention to ensuring diversity in all aspects can be an asset throughout the indoor ag community via job creation, food security, education and bridging long-standing equity gaps.

A diverse workforce, for example, brings together individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, bringing fresh and unique ideas and solutions to the table. This results in increased adaptability, and a broader range of perspectives, which can undoubtedly drive business growth and success while making a positive impact.

Varied backgrounds can help identify potential risks and opportunities that may have otherwise been overlooked. Diverse teams are also more likely to engage in constructive debates and discussions, leading to more well-rounded decisions. To take it a step further, employees today seek inclusive work environments where they feel valued and respected, and such environments are more likely to result in higher levels of employee engagement and retention. In turn, those employees are also more likely to be motivated, loyal, and committed to the success of the business.

When FarmBox Foods was in its infancy, it recognized the value of bringing different perspectives to its board room, and hired Derrick Holmes, who serves as the company’s chief diversity officer. His role, in part, is to help guide our strategies and establish closer ties with communities that have traditionally been underserved and underrepresented. Providing those communities with access to nutritious food has been at the forefront of FarmBox’s business plan; the company recognizes that providing something as fundamental as food security allows a community to thrive in other ways. This is something the company wants to be a part of.

As a privately-owned company, FarmBox has flexibility to pursue projects that it feels will have generational impacts, even if they’re not as lucrative as other projects. Each individual project is meaningful in its own way, and it would be foolish to conduct operations with a one-size-fits-all approach. The technology that FarmBox Foods has developed has a unique ability to transform communities and bridge the wealth gaps that persist in the U.S. and elsewhere. Deploying container farms where they’re needed most is, in FarmBox’s estimation, not only good for business, but good for the world.

FarmBox Foods talks container farming at Indoor Ag Con

A debate that distinguished FarmBox Foods as a leader in controlled-environment agriculture drew hundreds of attendees at Indoor Ag Con in Las Vegas on Feb. 28.

Organizers for the annual indoor growing convention invited FarmBox Foods Executive Vice President Joseph Cammack to debate the pros and cons of container farming and greenhouse-based vertical farming with a representative from AeroFarms. The debate was moderated by Freight Farms’ former CEO and co-founder Brad McNamara.

While FarmBox Foods, a Colorado-based manufacturer of containerized farms, has made its name with a tech-driven Vertical Hydroponic Farm, it’s increasingly gaining attention for its start-to-finish Gourmet Mushroom Farm.

The 320-square-foot portable farms bring food production close to the consumer and incorporate sustainable growing practices into the cultivation processes. Software and specialized sensor technology enable users to program the ideal conditions for growing nutrient-dense produce.

The Gourmet Mushroom Farm is attracting considerable attention because few companies are using upcycled shipping containers to grow fungi, including lion’s mane, reishi, oysters and king trumpets. The farms are used to support grocery stores, restaurants, wholesale suppliers, community-supported agriculture programs and more.

“I’m glad people see the value in adding mushrooms to their list of offerings,” Cammack said. “Mushroom cultivation is a growing business that generates significant revenue for operations of all sizes.”

Lion’s mane mushrooms found to stimulate nerve growth, according to study

Researchers from Australia and South Korea have discovered an active compound from lion’s mane mushrooms that improves brain cell growth, enhances memory and boosts nerve growth.

The researchers purified and identified biologically new active compounds from lion’s mane known in science circles as Hericium erinaceus —  based on their ability to promote neurite outgrowth in hippocampal neurons.

If you really want to get into the weeds, take a look at the study published earlier this year in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Other studies have identified strong neurotrophic effects, along with the identification of numerous bioactive components, including polysaccharides, erinacines, hericerins, alkaloids, steroids and many others, according to the study. Those studies showed that lion’s mane can help regulate blood sugar and reduce high blood pressure, as well as other mental and brain health applications including treating depression and improving recovery after a traumatic brain injury, according to an article in Popular Science.

Humans can consume lion’s mane in a variety of ways; Manna Restaurant in Castle Rock, Colo., recently made pulled pork sliders out of it. Powder extracts and tinctures are exploding in popularity, and compounds found in lion’s mane are even being used in skin care products.

According to the study, a promising nootropic fungus from lion’s mane has been used to treat ailments such as stomach aches and as prophylactic treatment of cancers. More research is needed to fully understand the implications of lion’s mane consumption, but advances such as the ones announced in the Journal of Neurochemistry are giving hope across multiple fields of medical study.

Lion’s mane, a mushroom that bears shaggy spines and has a crab-like consistency, traditionally grows on old or dead broadleaf tree trunks, but commercial scalability of lion’s mane is now attainable with controlled-environment agriculture. Repurposed shipping containers, in which the entire cultivation process takes place, provide the means to yield 300-400 pounds of the fungi per week. FarmBox Foods outfits the containers with a substrate mixer, steam cabinets for sterilization, a HEPA lab, incubation room and a fruiting chamber with a misting system.

Recent events highlight need for localized food production

A series of recent events have demonstrated the need for more localized food production.

Bad weather in Spain and Morocco has caused shortages, prompting several British supermarket chains to limit the amount of some fresh fruits and vegetables that customers can buy. Likewise, in the U.S., some restaurants and stores have had difficulty sourcing leafy greens due to a disease that wiped out thousands of acres of crops in California. Prices have predictably climbed to the point where people are seeking out replacement veggies. Meanwhile, severe drought continues to plague traditional farming operations.

The vulnerabilities of the worldwide supply chain were exposed for all to see when the pandemic hit in February/March 2020. CSAs — community-supported agriculture programs — quickly gained in popularity. The veggies came from nearby farming operations, and consumers were glad to support local businesses while reducing the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods.

The USDA has put renewed focus on fledgling farms and recently opened up $133 million in grant funding to support the planning and implementation of regional and local farms. The Local Agriculture Market Program — or LAMP — intends to generate “new income for small, beginning and underserved farmers and improve food access for rural and urban communities.

Decentralized food production will be a larger part of our future, and investing in the infrastructure now will help stave off the types of crises we’re currently seeing. Agtech solutions enable people with no agricultural background to begin farming in the areas where nutrient-dense food is most needed.

Evolving Labor Trends Turn Mushroom Farming into Viable and Profitable Option​

Evolving Labor Trends Turn Mushroom Farming into Viable & Profitable Option

Chestnut mushrooms in a fruiting chamber

Nearly everyone has heard about recent workplace trends said to have arisen from the pandemic, like “quiet quitting,” when in fact people have been re-assessing their priorities and career choices for years in an effort to strike a more equitable work-life balance.


There’s generally more awareness about workers leaving their jobs in pursuit of something more fulfilling. Finding a passion and turning it into a lucrative source of income is the goal, and turnkey solutions like container-based mushroom farming are receiving more recognition and acceptance as a low-overhead avenue to success.


Starting a career in farming might sound daunting, but a Denver-area company called FarmBox Foods makes it accessible, even for those with no prior experience in agriculture. FarmBox Foods manufactures high-yield Gourmet Mushroom Farms inside insulated shipping containers, allowing people to grow popular varieties of mushrooms year-round and create multiple revenue streams in the process. The privately owned company also trains you how to do it.


It’s a viable solution for those who don’t have millions of dollars to invest in a new business venture. There’s no need to buy farmland (the containers have a footprint of 320 square-feet) and all of the necessary equipment for start-to-finish mushroom cultivation is included. And customers can even finance the container farms, which generate more than $1.2 million in profits over their projected 10-year lifespan.


The farms open up opportunities for sustainable food production in places that currently lack access to fresh food, including islands. More than 90 percent of food consumed on islands is imported, which increases costs, reduces quality and results in food miles that impact the environment.


“It’s something that people can really pour their heart and soul into,” said Rusty Walker, CEO of FarmBox Foods. “It’s not just a new career. It allows you to live and work where you want to and get a good return on your investment while doing something that gives back to the community.”


The controlled-climate mushroom farms use a digital control panel and a network of sensors to monitor and automatically adjust conditions inside the farm for optimal growing. The farms can grow nearly 20 varieties of mushrooms, including lion’s mane, oysters, king trumpets and reishi, and yield around 400 pounds of mushrooms per week.


To learn more about purchasing or leasing a Gourmet Mushroom Farm, or to schedule an in-person or virtual tour, visit farmboxfoods.com/gourmet-mushroom-farm/.