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Women Who Farm: Bowery Farming’s Tara Summerfield on Growing Vegetables Indoors

by BUST Magazine

Avocados from Mexico. Strawberries from California. Bagged salad greens from Arizona. It’s January 2020, and yet the produce section reflects summer cravings. This seasonless demand comes at a cost: food miles. On average, lettuce travels 2,055 miles from the West Coast to Northeast during the winter months. Time in transit not only impacts freshness and shelf life, but also increased carbon emissions due to transportation.

For Arizona native and University of Arizona, School of Agricultural Sciences graduate Tara Summerfield, there had to be a better way to deliver fresh produce year round. Her background studying hydroponics and controlled environmental agriculture led her to the start-up based in Kearny, New Jersey, Bowery Farming. There, she became the second agricultural scientist hired at the company’s first farm.

“Throughout my educational career I was obsessed with thinking about how to get food, especially good food, to people and areas that had limited access,” Summerfield says. “After finding Bowery and learning the mission to build farms in or near cities to supply people from all walks of life with good, clean, and affordable produce, I knew this was a team I had to join. From day one I was amazed by the operations, quality, and freshness–since then the offerings and availability has only increased.”

Bowery’s local, indoor farms not only turn industrial warehouses into plant havens where each and every green receives the ideal conditions it needs to thrive, but operates 100x more productively than traditional farms on the same plot of land. This is because the company stacks the plants vertically, in columns, maximizing the area to grow more crops with less space. 

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Their ability to control the farming environment also means they can conserve more resources, using 95% less water compared to traditional agriculture, and tweak the flavor profile of every crop.  

“Hydroponics is such a versatile growing technique because it allows us to give our crops exactly what they want and need. My favorite way to describe this is to talk about wine. Good wines grow in specific regions because the nutrients of the soil in those regions is perfect for grapes,” Summerfield says. “Using hydroponics we are able to replicate those soil nutrients to grow our crops perfectly! This gives us the flexibility to grow anything, and keep it consistent regardless of where in the world our farms actually are.” 

Bowery’s restoring transparency to the food supply chain and delivering greens within days of harvest to local retailers so that they arrive at your doorstep at the height of their freshness and taste.

“The most challenging part of Bowery is how fast we’re moving. We’ve been able to build our farms so quickly and develop so much in such a short amount of time. It keeps it really exciting and dynamic,” Summerfield says. “My role is especially interesting because I work on finding new products for us to grow, some with very unique flavor profiles. My favorite thing I am working on right now is turnips, which before Bowery I don’t think I had ever even tried. They are smooth and creamy and pair amazingly with Butterhead lettuce!”


To learn more about Bowery Farming, visit https://boweryfarming.com

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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