Indoor farm supplies 120 lettuces to local families

Christopher Iannazzone prepares a head of lettuce for distribution. (Dec. 20, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova Volunteer Fire Department members and others pitched in to buy 120 heads of lettuce for local families.

The lettuce, costing $600, was purchased from Kale’n Thyme, a Cordova business that grows greens and herbs hydroponically in a shipping container. This self-contained farming environment allows the company to grow fresh produce regardless of the season.

“Greens are easy to wilt,” said Christopher Iannazzone. “By the time a lot of our stores get greens from out of town, they’re two weeks old, and you’re like — shoot!”

Iannazzone proposed that the fire department do a fresh food drive rather than its traditional canned food drive. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the department’s community involvement has been reduced this year, he said. Iannazzone donated to the project, and helped gather donations from the fire department and other organizations and individuals, including out-of-town relatives. Around the beginning of November, Kale’n Thyme planted about 140 heads of lettuce to be sure that a crop of at least 120 heads would be available for Christmas, Kale’n Thyme owner Kristy Andrew said.

The lettuce was harvested the night before the Salvation Army’s Dec. 21 Christmas food distribution, where it supplemented other consumable items and gift cards for Nichols’ Backdoor Store. At the distribution event, large families received a $50 gift card, small families received a $30 gift card and families of six or more received a large frozen turkey. Some root produce, including potatoes and onions, was also available.

“2020 is not a typical year,” said Salvation Army food bank coordinator and CVFD reserve member Katherine Mead. “With COVID, the normal is no longer normal. You can stretch a dollar so much, but after a while you have to admit you need help.”

Mead said she hopes Salvation Army food distributions will continue to include Kale’n Thyme produce, though there are still many logistical questions to be resolved.

As well as giving some Cordova families a more ample holiday dinner, Iannazzone said he hopes the project will highlight the importance of locally sourced food. Iannazzone is also serving as an environmental sustainability consultant for a project to determine whether or not to build a greenhouse in Cordova.

“This was [Iannazzone’s] Christmas gift to Cordova: 120 heads of lettuce,” Mead said.