New Hampshire is close to having a huge new hydroponic farm, Lef (pronounced “leaf”) Farms, a $10 million soil-free greenhouse being built in a former gravel pit in Loudon, with plans to provide fresh greens year round with largely automated systems. You’d know this if you had attended the October Science Cafe Concord, where the farm’s founder was one of our panelists discussing how technology can change agriculture.
Not everybody is crazy about such operations, however, including the organic farm industry, which bristles at them being labeled “organic.” The Boston Globe has a good story about the dispute here, which starts thusly:
Dave Chapman is not afraid of getting a little dirty. For the past 36 years, he’s dug his hands into the soil to plant, then pick, organic tomatoes from his fields and greenhouses in rural Vermont. His love of organics is rooted in a simple motto: “Feed the soil, not the plant.” So when he heard that hydroponic growers were starting to obtain USDA certification that declared their crops organic, Chapman was incensed. What is organic, he wondered, without the marvel of microbes inherent in dirt?