Lighting Our Way to the Future

Like many other small businesses, Lansdowne Urban Farms is an operation that is in constant change. Being our first and only venture into hydroponic farming, we are always looking for that next adjustment we can make to improve our operations. The end goal of these minor (and constant) tweaks is almost always to create a better growing environment for the food we are growing, while retaining a keen eye towards sustainability.

Currently, our largest expense is our energy usage. Sure, hydroponics does offer plenty of advantages over traditional farming regarding land use, pesticides, and the elimination of seasonal restrictions, but the downside is of course the need for constant electricity.

Unfortunately, moving to solar power — while noble in concept — is not a practical option for us. I’ll save that rant for later, but in short, how we deal with solar power on a legislative level creates a number of obstacles to making a fair return of investment on solar energy equipment.

So to mitigate our energy expense, we look for any small adjustments that we might be able to make. With that in mind, we recently, we swapped out the fluorescent lights on our largest unit (the “Monster” as we call it here) for LED shop lights. And guess what? It’s already starting to pay dividends.

Not only are we using less electricity, but these “cooler” lights for the plants generate less heat, meaning that the overall temperature of our environment is more easily managed. It’s a win-win on all sides – for the plants as well as the folks who grow them and use them! And we suspect that if our lettuce could talk, it would let us know that it’s been much happier in these new conditions.

Thankfully, most of the other, newer-made growing systems here at the farm already use LED lights — so we are officially just about fluorescent-bulb free here – and our plants are loving it!

What will we change next? Only time and our experience will tell, but we will be sure to let you know as we navigate the changing technologies of modern hydroponic farming.


Spring on the Farm

Spring has arrived in Lansdowne, including here at Lansdowne Urban Farms. Although the climate we operate in never changes – a consistent indoor temperature between 70-72 degrees – this time of year is still a season of renewal for us.

For Zachary and I, renewal at the Farm includes a near-constant reevaluation of our growing processes. As has been the case since our inception, the learning process never ends. The science and math of building a sustainable, workable growing regimen requires us to monitor and tweak our methods on the fly. Perfection is never truly attainable, but we do our best to always keep learning and improve what we do. 

Our model for bringing healthy food to our community is far from perfect. However, as we refine and improve our methods, we hope to find the right balance that benefits everyone in the process, from grower to consumer, equally.

If you have not been to Lansdowne Urban Farms yet to see what we are doing, please, do stop by. At the very least, it will prompt some thoughtful consideration of how we all can create a more sustainable life. Nearly all of our crops (with the exception of some particularly difficult Kale) are growing and thriving at the moment, and it is a wonder to see it happening in person. Our microgreens have proven to be a popular item, too.

For us as a society to have the best chance at a healthy and sustainable future, we all need to do our part. Small businesses like ours, and the communities we serve, can make a difference in building a better future.

Thank you for being a part of our community here at the farm. We hope to see you soon! 

Bronze Beauty
Bronze Beauty

Going Vertical

Growing, Learning, and Teaching

As we continue to refine our schedule and get our growing processes dialed in here at the farm, we’ve also kept ourselves busy by taking on an exciting new community outreach project.

Thanks to a partnership with a Pre-Kindergarten group, we have installed new vertical growing systems at their three Philadelphia locations. The vertical systems will allow the children who attend to see first-hand how hydroponic farming works. Right now, the systems are fully operational, growing Parris Island Cos Romaine, Gustav’s, and Bronze Beauty Lettuces, as well as Tatsoi, Kale, and Lettuce Leaf Basil.

Zachary has taken the lead on this project, holding classes with each age group to teach them about hydroponic gardening and training staff to help in the growing process. Not only are the children seeing the greens develop right in front of their eyes, they will soon enough be able to taste them as well, when Zachary returns to harvest and lead a tasting session with the kids. It’s both exciting and rewarding to help educate young people about farming, nutrition, and sustainability!

Pictured below is one of the vertical units installed at the PreK, with Tatsoi, Kale, and Lettuce Leaf Basil taking shape!


14 Months of Growth and Countless Lessons Learned

If you follow this blog regularly, please excuse the lack of recent updates … we’ve been devoting so much of our time to our operations here at Lansdowne Urban Farms. Even though we now have more than a year’s worth of experience in hydroponic farming, there is still so much for us to learn as we grow.

After solving some ethical and practical challenges regarding where we obtain our supply of nutrients, we established a new, improved diet for our growing greens. That’s not to say that there weren’t some hard lessons learned along the way, though. Our new nutrient was unfortunately a bit too strong for young little seedlings, resulting in us “burning” through a number of them, costing us growing time. To solve this, we needed to experiment and recalibrate just about every aspect of our operations to find the right balance.

Scheduling our grow cycles has been challenging enough without the costly errors. Additionally, Zachary and I have made variety a priority in our scheduling, with our ultimate goal each week to make sure that we have from seven to 10 different greens available for you. That means that just as a item is ready to go out the door, we also need to have a supply that will be ready in two weeks, and four weeks — staggering consecutive crops. It’s a delicate balance and involves plenty of science and math to get it right!

Finally, we’re still figuring out the best use of our space and our equipment here at the Farm. In the course of building another growing unit recently, we also basically rearranged the entire place. This new unit was the first one that we designed and built by ourselves (except for a last minute save by our friend Bill!), and we love the results. Together with our machines we purchased “off the shelf” (and subsequently modified), it’s been a rewarding learning curve getting the hang of building the ideal mix of equipment to grow our greens.

Again, our endless appreciation goes out to all of you for your interest and patience with us. I realize there have been days when we haven’t been able to be open, or may not had the lettuce or green you wanted in stock, but brighter days are definitely ahead and it feels awesome to be growing.

It’s hard to believe that we started this just 14 months ago with only three machines. Today, in May, 2022, we have eight machines growing the greatest variety of greens we have to date. There’s been lots to learn for sure, but each of the small steps involved in growing food this way has been completely rewarding! It feels (mostly …. lol) fabulous — thank you for being a part of it!

Layout of Farm May 4, 2022

The Fourth of July!

The Fourth of July has always been pretty important in our family. On July 4, 1995, Zachary was born. Attached is a picture of him (second from the right), with his siblings, at the first farm he probably knew, my Mom’s Farm. So happy birthday Zachary, we are all super excited that you came up with the idea for Lansdowne Urban Farms. 


South Side Thursday Night!

Come on out tonight! Our Parris Island Cos Romaine is ready and delicious!

In the next 10 days, we will have Black Magic Kale and Lettuce Leaf Basil and a new Japanese Green called Chijimisai that is loaded with flavor and nutrients. This stunning new superfood contains four times as much vitamin A as carrots! It is also a great source of minerals and protein. You will not be disappointed.