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Green City Farms Cultivates Fresh Perspective on Food Production

The urban farming service, with roots in Santa Barbara, is expanding to Los Angeles

At the end of an unassuming paved driveway near Crane Country Day School, a business with Santa Barbara roots is preparing for full-scale growth into Los Angeles.

A passionate group of local farmers huddled on a recent morning at a nursery of 50 white garden towers, fully hydrated from a built-in watering system, to inspect the seedlings of vegetables that stuck out in varying directions.

The vertical gardens could intimidate even a seasoned gardener, but especially those who have never seen the daunting piece of equipment that’s slowly become synonymous with urban farming.

Green City Farms co-founder Niels Thorlaksson has been working with and selling the towers in Santa Barbara for three years, which was long enough to realize most people need as much help buying the gardens as maintaining them — a service no one was offering.

The Santa Barbara native teamed up with fellow twenty-something native Robby Foreman to fill the void last October.

Foreman was working full time in a Los Angeles real-estate investment business when he and Thorlaksson discovered they had a mutual client.

Green City Farms leases and sells the garden towers or produce directly, steering away from the “pick and sell” model of other local outfits by offering weekly visits to harvest and replenish.

The number of customers has steadily increased ever since, with one new Santa Barbara client for every 10 in L.A., where space and access to fresh veggies are typically limited.

Heads of lettuce flourish in one of Green City Farms' vertical gardens. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

“The whole point is trying to get people to think about where their food comes from,” Thorlaksson said. “People like to have their fresh produce in the fridge, but they don’t like to do the work. Our goal is to change the landscape of food production.”

Buzz phrases such as “sustainable” or “farm-to-table movement” can be thrown out a lot these days, but Thorlaksson’s passion for farming inspires confidence in his words.

So does his experience, which includes founding Santa Barbara Urban Farms and previously working for Urban City Farms in Montecito.

Green City Farms’ fresh produce of leafy greens, seasonal garden favorites such as zucchini and watermelon, and every type of herb imaginable have found their way into El Encanto’s restaurant, the Santa Barbara Montessori School and Santa Barbara City College.

Tender Greens, an L.A.-area regional restaurant chain, has also embraced the service, Foreman said.

“It’s growing like crazy,” Foreman said, noting the farm’s seven employees (and counting). “It’s very forward thinking.”

Green City Farms wants everybody to feel better and to eat healthier, a goal Thorlaksson adamantly shares over profits or future expansion.

His commitment and enthusiasm for challenging the average person’s food sources makes the whole idea seem less lofty.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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