MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities company is hoping to change the way we think of Minnesota’s growing season.

St. Paul based J & J Distributing has found a way to grow local, organic produce year-round.

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Spring typically marks the beginning of a new growing season in Minnesota, but the harvest is already underway in J & J’s greenhouse.

For the last seven months, several varieties of tomatoes and herbs have sprouted and ripened through the cold winter months.

“Game changer, definitely a game changer,” said Jim Hannigan, CEO of J & J Distributing.

Hannigan is the owner of this first urban, hydroponic, certified-organic greenhouse farm in Minnesota. He believes it marks a new trend in locally-grown organic produce.

“It means that what we’re going to be able to do is supply a product that you would get from July through the frost, maybe in October, on a year-round basis,” Hannigan said. “Local is becoming a real big part of our industry and, of course, organic already is a big part of our industry.”

It is a project 10 years in the making; an idea realized with the help of master grower Steve Shrump.

Greenhouse growing is nothing new, but reaching the standards of certified organic, using an indoor setting, has been a big challenge.

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“A lot of it’s trial and error through the year,” Shrump said.

He helped develop the hydroponic system to feed an acre’s worth of plants at all growing stages. Shrump says J & J also set up one of the city’s only water reuse systems used for agriculture.

“We’re taking water from the J & J Distribution center, cleaning it, filtering it and using it in the tomato production,” Shrump said.

Computers control the climate and bees help with the pollination process. The urban farm uses no pesticides, and it is essentially self-sustaining.

“Actually, it takes away a lot of my problems and it makes the growing much easier,” Shrump said.

Produce is already on the shelves of several markets around the Twin Cities, as the future of farming now grows in a new direction.

“We really want to grow what the public wants,” Shrump said.

J & J has plans to expand to other produce. The tomatoes are sold under the “St. Pauli Boy” name at Jerry’s Foods, Lunds & Byerlys, Kowalski’s and the co-ops.

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The cost is comparable to that of other organic produce. Click here for more information.