Urban farming brings fresh to the dinner table

Urban gardens in Youngstown, Ohio produce all year.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Urban farming is becoming more popular in Youngstown. It is where everyday people grow fresh vegetables in their own backyard and sell them. Katie Phibbs and her husband Tom are doing just that.

The Phibbs are the brains behind The Lettuce People. Their crisp, Cherokee lettuce and other varieties, grow in the basement of the Youngstown Kitchen Incubator. The space isn’t huge, but the yield is in the hundreds.

The Phibbs started out growing one head of lettuce and now harvest 300 heads each week. They’re not growing it the traditional way with soil; they use other technology that lets them grow all year.

Phibbs designed and created the systems for lettuce to grow at her hydroponic farm. She uses water and LED lights to grow the lettuce. It takes eight weeks to produce each head

“We plant every week and we harvest every week,” Katie Phibbs said. “In this kind of environment we can produce ten times more lettuce in the same amount of space that you could if you were growing outside.”

It only takes about one gallon of water to grow one head of lettuce in the indoor farm, about 98 percent less than if they were growing outside.

“We continuously capture that water and re-circulate it through the system,” Phibbs said.

Farmers are interested in Phibbs’ year round set up and have contacted her to find out how they can profit from growing produce 365 days a year, and Youngstown City Schools wants her to work with elementary students to teach them about urban gardening.

Phibbs said that her efforts are really about education and teaching people how easy it is to grow food that provides fresh options at the dinner table.

“It is a need. It is something we really need in our community,” said Tom Phibbs. “We don’t have a lot of access to fresh, healthy food in the inner cities, especially Youngstown.”

Products from The Lettuce People are available at four Valley businesses: Magic Tree, Suzie’s Dog’s and Drafts, Catullo’s and the Lake to River Food Cooperative.

There are about 100 varieties of lettuce, but The Lettuce People stick to just a few so there is a constant rotation.

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