An Interview With Urban Greens

Urban Greens delivers fun, healthy, and yummy greens year-round, all grown hydroponically in Iowa City. If you haven’t tried the Bold & Spicy mix, you haven’t lived!

Can you tell me about the Urban Greens founders?

Ted and Chad have been friends since childhood, but their professional relationship formed during their young adult years. Whether the task was a college project or an opportunity to work together for Chad’s father Roger (another entrepreneur), we found that our personalities and work ethic made for a productive combination. Over the years, through many odd jobs, our working relationship has been tested and proven to remain solid. The culmination of experience and knowledge that led to Urban Greens was shared from the beginning. By the time the decision to start Urban Greens was made, our partnership was a given.

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What inspired you to begin Urban Greens?

At the University of Iowa, Ted studied biology and sustainability, while Chad studied environmental science. We share a science-based view of the world around us. That means that we are very interested in working to improve issues like nutrition and public health or food systems and the degradation of the environment. From our perspective, food production is about the design and management of living systems, and how to do that efficiently, sustainably, and in places where you wouldn’t expect to find living plants thriving. These were the principles that inspired Urban Greens. The where was a matter of what we had available: a basement and a backyard.

What do you see as your purpose?

Urban Greens is about growing tasty healthy produce hyper locally 365 days a year; to make eating your greens as palatable and exciting as possible; and to grow those greens in places that are underutilized and close to their intended market.

Urban Greens is such a unique grower. How do you grow your greens? What keeps you going?

We see great value in both traditional and innovative growing methods. We grow hydroponically indoors, as well as seasonally in raised beds in our backyard. The grow media and unused plant matter from the hydroponic system becomes a useful resource once composted for the outdoor operation. The hydroponic system utilizes a variation of the nutrient film technique growing method, and is lit with energy-saving LED lighting. Working with a living product ensures that each day will bring a new set of challenges. The systems we build and the methods we use to grow our product can always be improved and made more efficient. It keeps us pushing forward day after day.

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What do you see as Urban Greens' role in our community?

Urban Greens hopes to make it easier for anyone in this community to improve their diet and health by eating more fresh greens. We want to educate about the importance of diet and nutrition and to maintain company transparency so that it is easy for customers to see where and how those greens got on the shelf at the grocery store, or to the table at the restaurant. In time, we want to provide meaningful employment to a growing number of community members.

What's the best thing about Urban Greens? What's your vision for the future?

The best thing about Urban Greens is what we think it could become. This company is about more than a job to pay the bills. Urban Greens is an experiment in turning that job into a lifestyle. Urban Greens staff work where they live. That means no commuting to work and no 9-5 schedule. The house on College Street started as just the place where we lived. Today, it’s a model that we hope to replicate around Iowa City and beyond.

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