|Address:|| 3734 Irish Road
Schuyler, VA 22969
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There are no regular visiting hours to this farm.
• Located about 30 minutes south of Charlottesville, Virginia, this farm is actually a greenhouse that grows greens and herbs all year long using hydroponics.
• It is operated by John McMahon. Foodwaze has had a chance to visit the operation to learn more about it first-hand.
• The range of products from the farm includes mint, basil, cilantro, arugula, romaine lettuce, Bibb lettuce, and a wide variety of kale.
• McMahon does not use pesticides and only uses Non-GMO or organic seeds.
• Through the use of hydroponics, Schuyler Greens uses significantly less water than field-grown lettuce.
• The products are sold typically within 100 miles which also significantly reduces the carbon footprint of those nightly salads people expect at restaurants. Most lettuce, particularly in the winter comes from California. Schuyler Greens provides a better year-round alternative.
• Please read more about the business under our Details tab.
As you drive along the winding and undulating gravel road toward Schuyler Greens, you can’t help being taken in by the natural beauty of the property. It would be a great place to spend a lot of time outdoors. But John McMahon spends a good deal of his time indoors. He runs the Schuyler Greens Company, which consists of a greenhouse-enclosed hydroponic growing operation that produces pesticide-free herbs and salad greens all year round.
Schuyler is a scenic area in southern Albemarle County about 30 minutes south of Charlottesville. McMahon owns 225 acres there and his greenhouse, while just a speck on the property, is producing big things toward the advancement of food that’s clean, fresh, local, and sustainable. Foodwaze has had a chance to visit the operation to learn more about it first-hand.
McMahon started it in 2015. He’d grown up around farming but tried life in the corporate world for a little while before deciding to return to his roots and make a difference. He built the greenhouse himself and the meticulousness of it is a testament to the healthful, nourishing food he is producing within. His range of products includes mint, basil, cilantro, arugula, romaine lettuce, Bibb lettuce, and a wide variety of kale.
His hydroponic operation uses what’s called a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). NFT uses a very shallow stream of water containing all the dissolved nutrients required for plant growth. The water is re-circulated past the bare roots of plants in a watertight gully, also known as channels. The technique was first developed in England back in the 1960s, but McMahon’s set-up is everything but old-fashioned. He uses a complex network of computers, sensors, and timers to control everything including the air temperature and humidity, the amount of sunlight coming into the greenhouse, and the flow of water to the plants.
Water is of course a key component of the hydroponics system. But it’s all about the plants. McMahon begins the process with organic, non-GMO seeds. Each seed is placed into a root cube, which is a foam-like substance that is made without toxic chemicals. The cubes are designed to replicate a plant’s cell structure and allow for proper water absorption. Once the seeds germinate they are transferred to the long growing channels. These channels are mostly air, which allows an abundant supply of oxygen to get to the roots.
The light stream of water that flows down the middle of the channels brings water-soluble nutrients and trace elements to the roots of the plants. A well on the property provides the water, which according to McMahon’s tests, is neutrally balanced and requires minimal inputs to feed the plants. Once the water flows through the channels, it is filtered and re-circulated. It is a closed system with no runoff. The entire process uses up to 40 times less water than equivalent amounts of soil-grown produce.
It also protects the plants against the whims of Mother Nature... weather of course being the major factor. Pests are the other. But an indoor environment can be just as inviting to bugs, so McMahon has to have tools at his disposal since he is committed to not using harmful chemical pesticides. Instead, he uses “beneficials” such as ladybugs to eat the bad bugs, and he examines his plants every day, all day long, for the first sign of problems...hand-picking insects if need be.
Where Schuyler Greens really helps advance sustainability, is its role in supplying local, year-round salad greens. While Foodwaze advocates seasonal foods, the reality is, nearly every restaurant on earth serves salad. Most of it consumed on the East Coast is trucked thousands of miles from California, particularly in the winter. McMahon serves restaurants usually less than 100 miles away. Greens picked in the morning can realistically wind up on the plate of someone dining at a restaurant that evening.
Please click on the Places tab to connect to restaurants and markets that Source from Schuyler Greens.