Nowhere To Go But Up: Green Wolf Vertical Farm Supplies Local Restaurant
Nowhere to go but up: Green Wolf Vertical Farm supplies local restaurants
Posted: November 19, 2016 - 7:18pm.
By Ben Egel
Marre Seleska’s house looks unimposing. Well-kept, sure, with a spacious kitchen and a room for her father Gene to smoke cigars in, but off the main road in the sleepy Carson County town of Panhandle.
In a repurposed sunroom near the back of the house, imposing burlap pillars filled with lettuce, kale and bok choy stretch from floor to ceiling, roots plunging downward into a growing medium made from recycled plastic bottles. This is where Green Wolf Vertical Farm holds court, and the luscious towers truly support the “vertical” aspect of Seleska’s brainchild.
The real prize, though, is the farm’s microgreens — shallow, long flats of dill and chervil, garden cress and amaranth growing in compressed plugs of peet, vermiculite and coco coir. In one to five weeks, they’ll dot plates at Imperial Taproom and Yellow City Street Food.
Most commercial microgreens are delivered to restaurants pre-cut, meaning they go bad within a few days. Seleska delivers her plants to Yellow City Street Food and Imperial Taproom every week for $25 per flat.
Long shelf lives aren’t the only thing that makes Green Wolf’s microgreens stand out. Yellow City Street Food co-owner Scott Buchanan orders two flats per week because of a substantial taste difference between Seleska and her competitors.
“You can get some from Ben E. Keith or whatever that are already clipped and they’re already kind of devoid of a lot of flavor, but we get fresh racks from her that are growing,” Buchanan said. “The flavor’s insane — it’s not novelty at all.”
Buchanan and his wife Rin met Seleska at the Canyon Farmer’s Market earlier this year, and started using her greens a couple weeks later. Yellow City Street Food tops its dishes with a citrus blend, spicy blend or wasabi arugula.
“They’re pretty, but they also pack a lot of flavor. Hers do especially,” Scott Buchanan said.
“Chefs are artists. They’re food artists, and they like color and flavor,” Seleska said.
Seleska, 59, tried growing leafy greens in a field after moving up from the metroplex three years ago, but found the packed clay left from the Panhandle’s dried-up playa lakes too tough to give life. Vertical growth requires less property and lets Seleska use materials besides the natural soil.
Greens aren’t the only “micro” aspect of Seleska’s production. That converted sunroom is packed full of produce, and leaves little wiggle room for large-scale projects.
Eager to expand past her current space limitations, Seleska began building a 20’x40’ greenhouse in September. Now completed, the first crops will be harvested around Christmas.
Seleska has grown about 15 different crops in her current towers, she said. That number figures to multiply once 70 greenhouse towers are filled, with eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, and purple bell peppers all already planned once winter passes.
Towers are flushed with nutrified water pumped from a 300-gallon reservoir in the back of the greenhouse. A return channel collects any water not soaked up by thirsty plants, and moves the liquid back to a sump tank and back into the nutrient reservoir through PVC piping.
The hydroponic system uses about 90 percent less water than a dirt farm, Seleska said.
Her sister, Robyn Clark, drives from Claude to help out at Green Wolf once per week, “or whenever my big sister bullies me into it.”
The sisters’ maternal grandmother, Winnie Slaton, instilled in them a love of cooking and gardening when they were young, a love which seems to have only grown stronger over the years. On the day Robyn spoke to the Globe-News, Marre had called her at 5:00 a.m., eager to ask her sister’s opinion on a potential hybrid microgreen.
“I call her my mad scientist. She’ll take all these different seeds and see what they taste like together,” Clark said.