Farm and Ranch Resiliency Award Application
Gorilla Greens is a grower and deliver of premium microgreens, operating exclusively in Deschutes County since 2018. It is a family business run by Christopher and Ping Stahn, a husband-and-wife team. Christopher grew up in Sisters, and Ping moved from China to the United States 8 years ago. Microgreens are Gorilla Green’s Specialty. Microgreens are typically a week old and are a highly nutritious way to eat plants such as broccoli, sunflowers, and peas. As an agricultural operation, they face many of the same changing climate challenges of traditional farmers. Still, in 2021 this is a new frontier in the agriculture world. Microgreens are widely unavailable across the globe. These agricultural innovators develop new solutions to overcome traditional farming challenges, adapting as passionate pioneers in their growing fields. Gorilla Greens is passionate about its community and environment.
Crop waste is a severe problem in agriculture, even in Central Oregon. Crops are genuinely a waste of the resources that went into them if they don’t get into the hands of consumers. Those crops create biological waste and seemingly find their way to landfills. Creating toxic greenhouse gases is a genuine concern when managed incorrectly in their decomposition. Gorilla Greens uses its adaptability of growing microgreens to prevent these problems. All but one of our vegetable grows from seed to harvest in 7 days. We can vary growing production and ultimately weekly harvesting according to demand. Grown-on-demand. More than 98% on average of microgreens are pre-sold for weekly deliveries. On the rare occasion for unsold greens, we donate to local food banks as they are still in excellent condition for consumption. We honestly believe that everyone should have access to healthy foods, especially those challenged with food insecurities. In 2020, we donated approximately 100 containers of greens to Bend, Redmond, and Sisters food banks (this includes 34 containers that were grown specifically for these charities at the start of local quarantine). We have already expanded three times from our initial operation in 2018 without increasing our long-term carbon footprint on the land. We will increase our product output again, another 50%, before the summer ends.
Byproduct waste is minimal at Gorilla Greens. Planting in small growing trays results in little to no waste of soil and no long-term compaction caused by traditional tilling practices. Our used soil, including roots and stem bases, composted and then donated back to community members. These composting practices help sequester carbon by guaranteeing aerobic rather than anaerobic decomposition. This year, we have built two new rotational composting stalls to track better how long the soil has been composting and ensure that it is ready for use. We currently have two 337 cubic feet stalls and plan to have twelve total stalls in the coming months to manage their decomposition and accommodate our “literal growth” projections of 2021.
Gorilla Greens are environmentally friendly through minimal water requirements, bio-safe fungicide, low energy lights, and efficient fans. We grow indoors using trays, shelving, and grow lights in a vertical farming process. First, to conserve our water and promote the maximum health of our plants, we water from the bottom up utilizing the developing root systems. This method significantly reduces evaporation when compared to traditional growing in soil. Second, we use a single OMRI-listed bactericide/fungicide, which has been proven to contain “no substance considered to be persistent, bioaccumulating nor toxic” and has a 0-day pre-harvest interval, meaning the greens are safe to eat almost immediately after an application (Biosafe Systems Safety Data Sheet, ZeroTol HC). Indoor farming also allows us to guarantee that none of this runs off into the water system. Toxic runoff is a real problem that many farmers have to address and be aware of neighboring farms too.
We anticipated there would still be challenges with indoor farming. Though innovative and lots of growing, we occasionally remove unwanted bacteria growth in our growing trays. Our grow room had air circulation units in place. The cause, an almost unnoticeable temperature variation as micro-environments forming between the growing plants and the grow lights only inches above them. This minimal climate change was enough to occasionally disrupt the delicate growing environment of our plants. Recently, we installed specialized fans on each rack, uniforming the direction of airflow through the forming micro-environments. These low wattage, low profile fans are traditionally used inside of computers to cool hard drives. They are the perfect size to attach to each level of our racks, use minimal wattage, and have already paid for themselves. Our grow lights are also manufactured for indoor growing microgreens and herbs while still being the best energy-efficient available.
We use industry-leading lights that most closely approximate sunlight but produce unnoticeable heat. In our 600 square foot grow room, our annual energy usage for growing microgreens is very close to 6,200kWh. According to the EIA.gov website, in 2015, the average yearly electricity in the continental west for a single-family detached home was 10,000kWh. Our indoor farm consistently consumes lower amounts than the cited home while providing above 2,800 personally delivered microgreens orders to community members in the last three years. This number doesn’t account for all the purchase of microgreens at farmer’s markets, purchase through two local farm stands, and the ongoing support from local restaurant orders. The impact of Gorilla Greens on its community has already surpassed its goals year after year and will continue to grow its greens optimistically and responsibly into the future.
We are dedicated to constantly improving Gorilla Greens and making it more “green” all the time. We are currently researching how to recycle our containers on-site because consumer-end recyclable or home compostable containers are not available in Central Oregon at commercially managed recycling centers. We strive to be genuinely green and responsible, not merely greenwashed to appear better to consumers. Our dedication to climate-friendly practices is an integral part of our identity as a company. We have a responsibility to our local community and our global community, which we take seriously. We are proud of our proactive and innovative solutions and will continue to meet these standards of excellence.
For these reasons, we believe that Gorilla Greens is deserving of the farmer’s resiliency award offered by High Desert Food and Farm Alliance.
Christopher and Ping Stahn
Photo courtesy of Gorilla Greens.