By Jim Harger | firstname.lastname@example.org
HUDSONVILLLE, MI – Steve and Kris Van Haitsma are bringing summer freshness to area menus and plates this winter as they refine the art and science of raising lettuce in the biomass-heated hydroponic greenhouses on their 32-acre farm.
Their business, Mud Lake Farm, serves about two dozen gourmet restaurants and more than 70 home customers through its “community supported agriculture” group. From their greenhouses, they produce about 40 varieties of lettuce, kale, spinach and herbs.
Their lists of customers include farm-to-table restaurants such Marie Catrib’s and Green Well in Grand Rapids, “Amore” in Alpine Township and “Salt of The Earth” in Fennville.
“This lettuce is incredibly sweet and incredibly fresh,” said Steve Van Haitsma, who quit his career as a real estate appraiser last year to join his wife, Kris, in their growing venture.
While the bulk of their sales come from the greens they raise outdoors during the warmer seasons, the Van Haitsmas are finding a growing market in the salad greens they raise indoors during the winter months.
The Van Haitsmas are in the process of boosting their production by installing new LED-based lights developed by a Holland company, Venntis Technlogies, a supplier to The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan.
The TotalGrow lamps are helping them out-produce their other greenhouses using fluorescent bulbs at one-third of the cost, Steve Van Haitsma said.
“They basically give the plants exactly what they want in terms of light,” he said of the lamps, which cast a pink glow over their hydroponic growing beds, which are kept warm by a geothermal heating system.
Having installed the new lights in one greenhouse several months ago, the Van Haitsmas are installing the lights in a second greenhouse this week.
Although each lamp can cost as much as $1,200, Van Haitsma said they should last up to 20 years. He estimates their investment in the new lighting will pay off within four years.
For restaurateurs like Egan Farrar, a manager at Marie Catrib’s in Grand Rapids, the Van Haitsmas are a godsend in their search for fresh and locally grown produce.
“Their values align with ours,” Farrar said. “They grow high quality foods with minimal impact on the environment. Plus, they’re tender and flavorful. They are awesome greens.”
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