Meet a Leafy Green Machine

Abby Dolan

Imagine a farmer going out to the field to harvest lettuce that you’ll eventually eat in your salad. Did you picture the farm as an up-cycled freight container smack dab in the city of Detroit? No? Well, me neither. But that’s exactly how LaGrasso Bros Inc is growing their produce – which is offered at Michigan Dining’s Fields Cafe

LaGrasso Bros is a Detroit based company who has been in the business for over 100 years. Recently, this family-owned company decided to invest in the local food movement and discovered that they could grow produce year-round in Michigan. How, you ask? By purchasing a “Leafy Green Machine” from Freight Farms.

Freight Farms is a company that uses old freight containers and turns them into state-of-the-art, compact hydroponic farms that can grow produce in any climate. These “Leafy Green Machines” (LGM) are sold to companies like LaGrasso Bros that are interested in growing produce in climates or areas that is unsuitable for traditional farming techniques. So now businesses operating out of places like Detroit, that have limited green space and harsh winters, can continue food produc

And the LGM are capable of producing significant amounts of food – more than a farmer’s field. According to Freight Farms’ website, an acre of traditional land will only have one harvest per year whereas the LGM will havetwelve harvests per year. This up-cycled freight container can compete with any “commercial-scale” producer.

LaGrasso Bros is currently growing arugula, greens, and 8 different types of lettuce. They plan to expand to growing beets, radishes, and melons as well. They have only been using this technique since September of 2015, but Michigan Students can look forward to their produce being served at Michigan Dining dining centers in the near future.  

Now, I don’t think that it’s stretch to say that Freight Farms is revolutionizing how we think about local food. Companies like LaGrasso Bros benefit from being able to grow their own produce year-round. And the eco-friendly aspect of this venture cannot be understated. According to Joe LaGrasso, Fleet Manager and Sales, there is a large push in the food industry to turn towards local sources, and when LaGrasso Bros discovered Freight Farms, they decided it was the perfect opportunity for them to dive into the movement. He also says that to LaGrasso Bros, “sustainability is the future”, and in their opinion, they see freight farms “beating out a greenhouse because of its localness”.

We at the University of Michigan can look forward to benefiting from this innovative farming technique that will provide us with fresh, local greens year round. Sounds like a win, win, win for me.

To research Freight Farms and how they make this hydroponic farming possible, check out their website here. To learn more about LaGrasso Bros and how they utilize their LGM, check out their website or head to their Facebook page.

Abby Dolan is a fourth year LS&A student with a major in Psychology and Spanish. She has a passion for social justice and believes that we all have a responsibility to live sustainably.