Testing lettuce: Groups trying products from Endless HarvestA few select groups in Jamestown have already tasted a new type of lettuce investors hope to soon become available to the masses here in the future. Endless Harvest, with grants totaling slightly more than $130,000 from Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. and the Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, has retrofitted a greenhouse in Grasston, Minn., as a prototype and as a test facility to determine the best products and processes for this type of greenhouse.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A few select groups in Jamestown have already tasted a new type of lettuce investors hope to soon become available to the masses here in the future.
Endless Harvest, with grants totaling slightly more than $130,000 from Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. and the Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, has retrofitted a greenhouse in Grasston, Minn., as a prototype and as a test facility to determine the best products and processes for this type of greenhouse.
The products — crisper, fresher and longer-lasting varieties of lettuce — have been making the rounds in the community, said Lance Brower, North Dakota consultant for Endless Harvest.
In January the JSDC authorized a feasibility study to determine profitability and best equipment practices.
Since then an existing greenhouse in Grasston has been upgraded to what the Jamestown greenhouse could contain. Brower said there are currently investors in the product and more groups from around the world want to invest.
The lettuces that have been arriving here since August are the same products that could be produced here.
“It’s harvested and delivered the same day,” Brower said.
Other lettuce in the community is trucked in from California, Arizona, Canada or Mexico.
The state-of-the-art greenhouse allows Endless Harvest to produce 5,000 heads of top-quality lettuce every two weeks, Brower said.
Brower wants different groups in the community to sample it so they are aware of what will be available commercially in the future.
“There’s nobody using the same technology we use,” he said. “However, we are literally the safest, and purest, and tastiest form of food you can get.”
He said the results come from a unique growing process.
New lighting technology allows the lettuce to be harvested 10 days earlier, Brower said.
Energy is transferred for heating and cooling differently, and air movement changes also shorten the time of growth by an additional five days. Carbon dioxide is also regulated differently, which the plants love, Brower said.
“It’s just like giving candy to a baby,” Brower said. “They go wild on it.”
The product is also pesticide free. Statistics on variables and growth can all be monitored directly via a computer.
From seed to harvest lettuce normally takes 45 days to reach maturity, Brower said. In the controlled-greenhouse environment it can go from seed to harvest in 20 days. The new facility could see better results, he said.
The Jamestown Public School District, Community Action Region VI food pantry and Buffalo City Rotisserie Grill have all received the prototype lettuces.
“We wanted to know what the consumer preference was on all the different types of leaf lettuce we can grow,” Brower said.
Shelley Mack, JPS food service director, said the change was noticed immediately by students at the middle school and high school where the lettuce is served. They knew it was different from the previously pre-chopped lettuce.
“They noticed the difference,” Mack said. “When you look at pound per pound, we’re going through it the same, but they’ve definitely noticed the changes.”
Five different varieties are available, which really makes for a good salad, she said. But the district will likely pursue the romaine variety.
“We wanted to try it because we were wanting to know how long it would hold up, and we’re amazed how long it holds up,” Mack said.
Paul Butenhoff, Buffalo City Rotisserie Grill restaurant manager, and the food pantry at Community Action Region VI could not be reached for comment.
Brower said the amount going to the food pantry was increased due to demand.
Next he hopes to get the lettuce in a local grocery store that has contacted him wanting shoppers to get a free taste.
“We want to give away free lettuce through them so consumers can just walk in when buying their groceries and pick up a head of lettuce and walk out with it,” Brower said.
He said “there’s no doubt” that the greenhouse will break ground here in the spring on a facility about eight times larger than the Grasston prototype.
Brower said the lettuce will be available locally, but will also be available across North Dakota and Minnesota.
“Just because we go into commercial mode doesn’t mean we’re going to drop them,” he said of local groups receiving the lettuce.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com