High-tech Lettuce Company

04-12-2019    13:06   |    MSN News

US/NORTH CAROLINA-Burnsville will soon be home to a major hydroponic lettuce company, bringing 20 acres of high-tech greenhouses and at least 100 well-paying jobs to Yancey County.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Dec. 3 announced the planned expansion of the Massachusetts-based Little Leaf Farms, a grower of pesticide-free boxed baby greens. The company will invest up to $86 million in Burnsville to build a state-of-the-art greenhouse complex in a multiphased project that should create up to 100 jobs. The project will be at 70 East U.S. 19E.

The Yancey County project should include up to 20 acres of greenhouses, allowing Little Leaf Farms to reach more East Coast markets, which also means more fresh lettuce for the region. Currently, the market for domestic but nonlocal lettuce is dominated by California. Little Leaf now reaches more than 2,000 grocery stores in the Northeastern United States.

Higher wages, more opportunity

Brianna Robinson, Burnsville tourism public information officer, said farming is embedded in the history and the culture of Yancey County.

"And bringing in (Little Leaf Farms) is a nice mix of continuing that tradition of farming Burnsville was built on, and combining with it the new innovations and sustainable mindset much of the world has these days," she said.

Although wages will vary depending on the position, the average salary for Little Leaf Farm jobs will reach $53,700. The average wage in Yancey County is $32,490.

"That is a higher median wage than most Burnsville jobs, and it's very exciting because that opens up huge opportunities we haven't had," Robinson said. "Many residents have to travel to work in order to make a decent living wage, and this will provide an opportunity to stay here in Burnsville and not create traveling time."

Little Leaf Farms' high-tech hydroponic greenhouses use 100% captured rainwater and advanced fertilization and irrigation systems that use 90% less water than field-grown greens.

Innovation in agriculture

"North Carolina is known for innovation and agriculture," Cooper said in the Dec. 3 announcement. "Projects like Little Leaf’s new greenhouse mean a better product and more sustainable practices to grow crops and jobs in Yancey County,”

Growers raise everything from microgreens to Christmas trees in Yancey County, Robinson said, recognizing that sustainable produce, like what Little Leaf produces, is a growing market sector.

"It's important that we break out into what is evolving culturally, and that is sustainable and organic food, and Burnsville has already been on that road for several years now."

But the unpredictable weather patterns that have inundated Burnsville with higher than average rainfall the past couple of years have been taxing on the farm community, she added.


"We have had several farmers who have lost their seasonal crops to flooding," Robinson said. Greenhouses offer a climate-controlled option for growing produce. "It's nice to have something not as reliant on weather, which for the past few years has been a little different."

Impact on local economy

“Little Leaf Farms is excited to be coming to North Carolina and Yancey County in particular,” said Paul Sellew, CEO of Little Leaf Farms, in the announcement. “We are proud to be both leading the transformation of our food system to higher quality and locally grown products and contributing to the local economy.”

The North Carolina Department of Commerce led the state’s support for the company during its site evaluation and decision-making process.

Little Leaf Farm’s project in North Carolina will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant, approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee Dec. 3.

Over the course of the 12-year term of this grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $636 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,366,200 spread over 12 years.

Source : Citizen Times https://www.citizen-times.com/

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