delmarvanow.com; Written by Jennifer Shutt Staff Writer; SALISBURY — Just months after planting its first head of hydroponic lettuce, Baywater Greens’ products have been picked up by Giant grocery stores.
Co-owners Matt and Kate Holloway began growing Bibb lettuce — without the use of soil — inside greenhouses in January. They have since sold it at farmers markets, Delaware schools, a green grocer in Washington, D.C., and to Sycso foods.
“We started with a kind of tricky situation because we didn’t have anything to show anybody who we were trying to sell to,” Matt Holloway said. “We knew we had to make some initial inroads at different places, and we actually had the Maryland Food Bank on standby in case we weren’t able to sell it.”
Baywater Greens was, however, able to sell a majority of its first hydroponic lettuce, opting to donate the rest to the Maryland Food Bank.
Hydroponic growing allows the Holloways to grow diverse varieties of lettuce in an environment that is devoid of soil, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. When Baywater Greens harvests the lettuce after a five-week growing cycle, it leaves the root attached, which keeps the lettuce fresh longer — a quality desirable to grocery stores.
Hydroponic production also allows farmers to grow year-round in locations where the climate isn’t favorable 12 months out of the year or where soil quality makes producing quality fruits and vegetables difficult.
Holloway said throughout winter and early spring, they sold directly to some Delaware schools that provide fresh fruits and vegetables to students. He also picked up business from two larger produce dealers on the western shore, one of which secures fresh produce for D.C.-area schools and the other of which delivers fresh produce door to door.
Holloway said he knew sales would lighten during the summer, when schools are not in session and many people opt to buy produce from farmers markets rather than grocery delivery services.
“We emailed (Giant), and they are a large corporation, so we stayed on them because we knew it wasn’t going to be just one phone call,” Holloway said. “We talked to as many people as we could. We spoke to the local produce buyer, the person in charge at the Salisbury Giant, and we tried to get him to ask for our product. We took samples to him. We just tried to be persistent.”
Giant began selling Baywater Greens Bibb lettuce in limited quantities in May and has since increased the amount it carries as well as the number of stores in which it’s carried. Jamie Miller, manager of public and community relations for Giant, said building partnerships with local growers and bringing their products into stores is becoming increasingly popular.