Farm trips in the spring can be a bit disheartening. Many crops are still in the green houses and hoop houses and things are just beginning to be transplanted to the fields. Thus for a lush early May farm visit we opted to go a few miles south, and visit Farm.One, an indoor hydroponic growing room. Located inside the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), the farm acts as both a learning lab and productive farm. We were introduced to them in January, when the promise of exotic edible flowers and micro herbs and greens was alluring during the winter doldrums. They harvest the same day as they deliver by bicycle, so the herbs arrive with intense aromatics that often get lost with strong refrigeration and long shipping times.
We entered ICE through the hustle and bustle of the World Trade Center Mall. Farm.One emerged as a calm, verdant oasis. From the outside several growers harvested and packaged greens in what looked like one of the most immaculate and cleanest greenhouses I have ever laid eyes on. Luke, the chef and sales manager, led us inside to the humid and richly aromatic room. He began to pull off leaves for us to taste and smell of the nearly 120 varieties of edible herbs and plants they grow there. Each row was a rich canopy of flavors, textures, and scents with unique varieties of herbs like za’tar (a more pungent oregano), nepitella (a wild mint with sage notes), and oxalis (lemony flavored purple leaves). Luke also described many of the medicinal properties of many of the plants. He explained the various mediums in which they grow the plants, ranging from ground cocoa husks compost to coconut fiber which allow for both drainage and moisture retention. There are not many bugs in the indoor farm but they have brought ladybugs in from time to time when aphids and other small pests emerge.
Farm.One plans on expanding their operation in Tribeca beneath Atera restaurant, where they will have three times the space and ten times the growing capacity. They will keep the ICE location as mainly an educational space for students and the general public. If you are interested in learning more about hydroponics schedule a visit or sign up for a class.
We have been further collaborating with Farm.One on our rooftop garden; they came to amend our soil with some of that cocoa husk fiber to give it some aeration. They also are bringing us transplants from their farm, like nasturtiums, borage, pea greens and shiso to fill out containers and soon our hydroponic towers! All in all they are the type of dynamic vendor that we are building a relationship with, where we not only source great product but also learn more about the plants we work with and sustainable urban faming methods.
All photos were taken by Stephen Yang, check out more of his work on his website.