Getting Things Done, Little by Little
Let’s not be fooled by their name. Little Leaf Farms is doing big things and having a massive impact in the New England community.
Learning from the best practices in the world, Little Leaf Farms found their unique way of operating to help streamline the process of growing lettuce. A deliciously efficient process that allows them to harvest the lettuce and deliver it to our stores within 24 hours. That’s super impressive. And what’s more impressive is the way they grow it. They use hydroponics which means the lettuce leaves grow without soil, so the plants just sit, relax and absorb the sunshine. Isn’t that nice?
They believe there is a right way to grow lettuce, and they are making it happen for the benefit of all of us. We could not be more proud of having them as a local partner, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
To tell us a little bit more about Little Leaf Farms, we had the chance to talk to Chris Sellew, Sales Manager, at their Devens, MA greenhouse. Take a look.
How did LL begin?
Paul Sellew had a vision for New England-a locally grown, fresh and sustainable salad that was available all year. In 2015, Paul was joined by Tim Cunniff and they broke ground on the first phase of Little Leaf’s 10-acre greenhouse development in Devens, MA. Today, Little Leaf Farms is proud to have built the most technologically advanced greenhouse in the world, and we are excited to share the freshest, best tasting baby lettuces in the Northeast with you.
How did you get the idea to mash up farming and technology?
To grow fresh leafy greens in New England year round, we had to incorporate the most advanced greenhouse technology. Lettuce is a delicate crop, and it needs a very specific climate to survive. The climate inside the greenhouse will be the same, no matter if it is a February blizzard or a 90-degree August day outside. To keep a steady climate, our growers use state-of-the-art greenhouse technology to give the lettuce everything it needs.
What’s the LL philosophy?
Little Leaf’s philosophy is to transform the way food is grown. Over 90% of the greens eaten in New England are shipped from over 3000 miles away, and here at Little Leaf Farms we believe there is a better way. Shipping lettuce from California is unsustainable, puts pressure on our supply chain, and leaves the consumer with a lower quality product. We want to bring back the robust local food system of New England, and we believe Little Leaf Farms is part of the solution.
Why do you think community is so important?
We are proud of being a Massachusetts based company and are thrilled to be part of the strong food community in New England. In addition, Big Y has been an incredible partner, and we thank everyone at Big Y for bringing us into their community and making us feel welcome at every store!
What brings you happiness?
Nothing makes us happier than when people reach out to us to let us know they loved the lettuce! We have a strong fan community, and we contribute a large portion of our success to the people of New England spreading the word about our lettuce.
What drives Little Leaf Lettuce?
The end customer drives everything we do at Little Leaf Farms. We want to grow the freshest, tastiest, and safest product on the market, and that is what motivates us. Our goal is to reset the expectation as to what lettuce should taste like, and reintroduce consumers to a better salad.
What’s been the most challenging experience growing lettuce hydroponically?
It might sound counterintuitive because we grow indoors; but dealing with the variable New England weather has been one of the biggest challenges. Our growing and production teams work every day to make sure the lettuce is as comfortable as possible, no matter the weather outside. This is a 24/7 job, and we have a motivated team monitoring the lettuce day in and day out.
How did you overcome it?
We can overcome it everyday thanks to our people. The people we have at Little Leaf Farms are skilled, passionate, and dedicated to producing the best tasting lettuce in New England. We are thankful everyday for our team in Devens, and it is because of them that we are able to do what we do.
What’s your favorite salad?
My favorite salad is Little Leaf Farms Spring Mix with some avocado/tomato/peppers/chickpeas and Little Leaf Farms Signature Vinaigrette!
How much do you love lettuce wraps?
I really love lettuce wraps. Our green leaf makes an awesome bite-sized lettuce cup, perfect for a quick snack or appetizer.
How is your lettuce better for the Earth/sustainability?
Sustainability is built into the foundation of everything we do at Little Leaf Farms. We use significantly less electricity because we utilize the best grow-light possible, the sun! In addition, we use about 90% less water than the average field farm, and the water we use to irrigate the lettuce is captured rainwater from our roof. Additionally, we only deliver a day’s drive from our greenhouse. This cuts down dramatically on food miles, which can lead to significantly less food waste, and requires far less trucking, releasing less exhaust into the atmosphere.
What makes Little Leaf Lettuce different? Taste, appearance, texture?
We believe Little Leaf Farms’ lettuce resets the expectation as to what lettuce should taste like. Our green leaf is a cross between iceberg and romaine, and has flavor, crispness, and freshness that is unmatched by any other product in the market. People reach out to us multiple times a day saying they have never had lettuce as fresh as Little Leaf Farms, even lettuce grown out of their backyard!
What’s special about your partnership with Big Y?
Big Y and Little Leaf Farms have a partnership that goes back to the start of our first greenhouse in 2015. They were one of the first grocery stores to buy in to our vision and have been an incredible partner since the beginning. We love working with the people of Big Y and the support they give us can be seen in the produce section of every store. A couple years ago, we had all the Big Y produce managers out to the greenhouse for a tour - it was an awesome experience for us, and we hope for them as well!