HACKENSACK, NJ -- Area businesses will now have the opportunity to purchase locally grown greens and give back to a good cause while they do it, thanks to a newly-launched endeavor by REED Next, a non-profit that supports autistic adults.
The organization kicked off the start of National Autism Awareness Month by holding a grand opening celebration Tuesday of Greens Do Good, a hydroponic vertical farm based on Oak Street in Hackensack.
With one in 34 children affected, New Jersey has one of the highest rates of autism in the country, making it crucial for communities to ensure there is adequate support and services for them once they age out of school programs at age 21.
According to data collected by REED Next, within the next decade, more than half a million individuals with autism will be left with no access to ongoing programs.
But, the non-profit is hoping to change that in Bergen County with Greens Do Good, an operation that will give all of its proceeds back to REED Next and give adults with autism a chance at employment.
It’s “produce with a purpose,” said Jill Nadison, the organization’s executive director.
Not only does Greens Do Good cultivate fresh, locally grown produce year-round for businesses, but it also builds “a sustainable social enterprise that ensures REED Next has the continued funding to support our programs and services for adults with autism,” she said.
Vertical farming is a way of growing plants indoors that doesn’t require sun or soil. It allows farmers to cut down on costs by using less water, less energy and less space. It also lets growers bypass fickle weather patterns and maintain the ideal conditions for crops, year-round.
Across the country, more and more vertical farms are popping up in locations that aren’t typically associated with agriculture.
Recent industry reports project that vertical farming could evolve into a $3 billion market over the next five years in the U.S. With a rising demand for fresh, locally grown food, analysts believe indoor farming will continue to gain traction for a variety of reasons, such as unpredictable weather conditions, land constraints and the ongoing need for sustainable farming.
In the metropolitan area, there are a few for-profit vertical farms already established, including ones in Newark and Brooklyn. Greens For Good is the first operation that will solely benefit a non-profit, according to REED Next.
Greens Do Good’s general manager Christopher Leishear said the method is “a key part of how we will feed the world in the future.”
“We are transforming the way our local community sources healthy produce by providing the freshest ingredients in a sustainable and socially responsible way,” he said.
Greens Do Good aims to sell directly to restaurants, country clubs, caterers, gourmet markets and bars. Businesses can also claim their own bed to grow specialty produce catered to specific menu items, according to the farm’s website.
All produce grown on site reaches maturity within 30 to 40 days and includes basil, butterhead lettuce, kale, argula, parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers. Vegetables are then harvested, packaged and sold directly to businesses, minimizing transportation.
“For pricing, we plan to work with each individual customer and be competitively priced, based on the market,” Megan Ascik, a REED Next spokeswoman said.
Greens Do Good, which has been in the works since 2016, was partially funded by a grant from the Special Child Health and Autism Registry and New Jersey Department of Health. It is located inside of an existing 3,300-square foot space on Oak Street that was remodeled to outfit the farm.
REED Next, which is based on Ramapo College’s campus, provides services to adults who are age 21 and up with autism or who are on the spectrum. Programming includes job training, day services, employment opportunities and community-based support.
“In the future, we hope to open more farms with the goal of expanding and continuing to create sustainable funding for REED Next,” Nadison said.
For more details on Greens Do Good, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit greensdogood.com and call General Manager Chris Leishear at 201-546-2300. Additional information about REED Next, log onto https://reedfoundationforautism.org/reed-next/.