In an industrial park in Arlington, Virginia, there is something you might not expect – a farm. Area 2 Farms is an indoor, organic, soil-based farm that seeks to expand their ultra-local model nationwide.
“We design, build, and operate farms,” said Tyler Baras. “We’ve been building technology to shrink a farm’s size while serving 500 customers a week, all within 10 miles. Besides the sustainability of local food, we also provide a profitable model for farmers.”
The farms can be beautiful and grow community connections. “Our dream is not for farms to be hidden. We want to grow in public spaces,” said Tyler.
Indoor Vertical Farming… In Soil!
Because it is soil-based, Area 2 Farms can grow root vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and potatoes, as well as common indoor crops like lettuce and tomatoes. They often throw in some unusual things, like wasabi arugula or toothache plant, which numbs the mouth.
A multi-level, vertical conveyor belt replicates a plant's day cycle. Growing vertically allows a higher yield per square foot, plant rotation and diversity eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides, water is recycled, and soil built with vermicompost saves money and time.
“Plants have a circadian rhythm, so they want warmer days and cooler nights. We use the natural heat rise and move the plants up and down to regulate temperature, saving 25% in electricity, and half the cost of these farms is the lights,” said Tyler.
Plant breeder Andrew Barocco selects plants for taste, nutrition, and indoor suitability. “We develop the best crop for people instead of the best crop for transportation or shelf stability,” he said.
They recently used Farm Service Agency’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program. “We received the check for $750 this week. It was so easy and a great benefit. The local USDA Service Center has been super helpful and supportive,” said Tyler.
Because they believe communities are nourished by connection, USDA People’s Garden was a natural fit. “We give away herbs and have a seed library out front. We think farms should be a part of the community, not just manufacturing and distribution.”
Farm tours, offered every other Sunday, typically attract 30 to 40 curious neighbors.
Learn more at Area 2 Farms.