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Urban Farming: Fresh Minn. Produce Even In The Dead Of Winter

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – In cold weather climates, the traditional farming season is over by the first freeze.

But a new trend in agriculture is allowing farming to continue year round.

J & J Distributing in St. Paul is preparing to open a one acre greenhouse in the city. The urban farming facility will send local produce to store shelves.

Owner Jim Hannigan, a major produce supplier to the Twin Cities metro area, knows customers are always looking for local products.

“It’s a very sophisticated market,” he said. “People are very aware of what’s healthy, and they are willing to pay for it.”

Finding local fruit and vegetables is an impossible task in the winter months, when the frozen tundra keeps farmers away from the fields.

“You still get produce from California in four days, Florida in two days, Mexico in three days,” Hannigan said.

But he’s looking toward a new trend in agriculture. An on-site greenhouse sits at the ready to produce locally-sourced fresh lettuce in the winter months.

Ground broke in 2012, but he’s yet to see his first sprouts.

“It has been for two years,” he said. “We’re hoping to get up and running.”

Urban farming isn’t easy. The start-up cost alone is a major hurdle. The greenhouse on Hannigan’s property is nearly an acre large and the price tag, once it’s up and running, will close in on around $3 million.

“I think every urban farm is experiencing, somewhat, the same problems,” he said.

Still, it is a risk that has the possibility to yield great rewards.

Where weather once wiped out crops, urban farming is creating a climate ripe for innovation and change.

“Urban farming is probably the future of the industry,” Hannigan said.

He says his lettuce will be sold in Cub Foods stores around the metro once the greenhouse is ready.

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