As winter sets in, one farmer moves indoors

Kristy Andrew harvests lettuce from her self-contained hydroponic farm. (Nov. 11, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

With clean white surfaces and glowing LEDs, Kristy Andrew’s workplace looks more like an Apple Store than a farm. Nonetheless, Kale’n Thyme’s “farm in a box” is harvesting lettuce and herbs even as frigid storms sweep across Cordova. Andrew said she hopes her project will improve food security around Cordova, where fresh produce is sometimes scarce.

Kale’n Thyme was not Andrew’s first foray into business, but it was her first time as a farmer.

“All the people who knew me growing up would probably laugh if I told them I was a farmer!” Andrew said. “I think most people would never have guessed that this was where I’d end up.”

Andrew’s farm fits inside a shipping container, where lettuce and other produce grows horizontally out of towers that reach from floor to ceiling. The plants’ nutrients must be balanced each day, and technical issues can be challenging to fix — but, in this controlled environment, the changing of the seasons will have no effect on even delicate herbs like cilantro. The absence of rodents, slugs, insects or birds also means that the crops can be raised without pesticides or other sprays. Additionally, the produce is not washed before sale, allowing it to stay fresh longer.

The shipping container housing the Kale’n Thyme farm. (Nov. 11, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Kale’n Thyme produce can be bought online for in-person pickup or for delivery as part of a four-week subscription. Nichols’ Backdoor Store also stocks Kale’n Thyme produce.

While Andrew’s method of farming works well for herbs and leafy greens, it’s less suited to heavier crops and to root vegetables. Andrew is a member of the steering committee for a project to assess the viability of building a greenhouse that could provide some other varieties of produce.

Andrew’s farm currently runs with a handful of employees, and with assistance from Amber Wasson. Kale’n Thyme welcomes suggestions from the public on what new varieties of produce it could offer, Andrew said.