Larry’s Hydro Lettuce: Fresh to your table all year long!

There’s nothing quite like fresh produce from farm-to-table, but living in North Dakota, that’s only possible a few months out of the year … or is it?

Alysia Huck introduces us to a Fullerton, North Dakota gardener bringing folks FRESH greens, all year long.

Gardening is Larry Schumacker’s passion … so what’s a guy to do when Mother Nature brings the growing season to a halt?
You become Mother Nature.

Larry Schumacker, owner, “I always think out of the box. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but that’s okay.”

And fast-forward to today, that way of thinking helped him to achieve his dream of supplying fresh lettuce to local consumers year round.
Over a decade ago, Larry reached out to his local NDSU extension office to explore the possibilities.
Together they developed a state-of-the-art growing system, using hydroponic technology.
That’s the cultivation of plants without using soil.

It all starts with a clay coated seed placed in rock wool .. it’s soaked in water and in 4 to 6 days …

Larry says, “Those little clay things crack like an egg, like a little baby chick’s gonna … then it’ll push the seed up through that and this is what happens.”

And all seedlings are given a chance whenever possible …

“Huh … now you see this,” Larry observes. “Well I’ve gotta give that little bugger a chance. Give him a drink. I didn’t see him up there yesterday. Now he’ll be happy. Yeah, you better be this tall tomorrow!”

Once sprouted, the seedlings are placed in channels where the water and nutrients flow around the roots of the plants.

“These tubes here, this is where the ferilizer comes out,” Larry explains.

Large barrels hold the nutrients for the lettuce, a computer with all of the set perameters maintains the necessary levels, and a pump moves the fertilizer through the system, and it all returns to the barrels to repeat the process.

Fully grown produce is prime for the picking in just 3 to 4 weeks, and another crop is planted.
Larry says there are about 1000 green varieties a person can raise, so what does he grow?

At the moment, he has romaine, leaf lettuce, crispino, red butterhead, green butterhead, green oak leaf and now he’s added Red Russian kale to the mix.

And it’s available to virtually anybody.

“It’s fresh … I harvest it, I deliver it to whomever, it’s that fresh. So you don’t have that travel time from Arizona, California or wherever it comes from. It’s 20 below outside, snow’s yay deep, ‘oh I need some lettuce,’ I gotchya covered,” exclaims Larry.

And the Hucks will vouch for its flavor, freshness and all around goodness… it’s top notch!”

And it doesn’t end there.

Larry is adding onto his facility to grow tomatoes and cucumbers year-round, utilizing hydroponic technology.

Larry delivers his produce to a number of establishments in the state, including the Bisman Community Food Co-op in Bismarck, Ranch House in Fullerton, The Lunchbox Eatery in Fort Ransom, and the Last Shot Bar and Grill in Oakes.

To buy his produce directly, visit his website here.

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