We’re currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign and are encouraging investors to ask us questions about Square Mile Farms before they invest. One person asked the question: “what can you grow in your office farms? Is it just lettuce”. Most people who were lucky enough to visit our main farm on the roof of 2 Kingdom Street in Paddington Central before Covid struck have been surprised by the variety of plants that we’re able to grow. Given that we’re not currently open to the public we thought we’d expand on this in a blog post as it’s an important question.
How did we decide what to grow?
We’ve spent a lot of time over the last 18 months experimenting with different plant varieties in order to establish which grow best in the office environment and which are most popular. We’ll continue experimenting to ensure we can provide a wide variety of produce to our clients and their employees, but we’ve tried to summarise our efforts so far in this post.
The plant you can see in the image at the top of the page is sorrel, which has a sharp, citrusy zing to it and is great with fish. We provide some of this to the London Shell Company, a fish restaurant on the canal in Paddington (they've been offering an amazing delivery service during lockdown, well worth checking out!). We also provide them with a daily delivery (prior to Covid - we are just starting to do so again) of fresh parsley, coriander, chives, dill and other herbs, depending on what we have available.
These are all grown in our rooftop farm in Paddington Central and we walk them round to the restaurant so that the produce is served to the customer within hours of harvest! We were lucky enough to feature in a BBC Inside Out London documentary following us growing and delivering to them. You can check it out here on our YouTube channel!
So what else do we grow?
In the team photo (right) you can see Basil, Curly Kale and Rosemary. We’ve grown these in the main farm as well as in the farm installation that we have in Vodafone’s office in Paddington Central.
The picture below shows a visiting chef harvesting for an event that evening. You can see Verde Chard in the foreground, then Red Chard, Basil, Cavolo Nero and, yes, some lettuce in the background!
We’ve also grown Fennel, Bok Choy, Mustard Greens, Lemon Grass, Mint, Chives and many more varieties. We've tried over 40 different plant varieties in total, including a range of micro-greens and micro-herbs, which is what we tend to focus on in our farm installation in Grosvenor Estate’s office.
They use these in their canteen, as well as leaving small (compostable) bags on each floor for the employees to take home.
What about lettuce?
We actually try to avoid lettuce. The reason for this is that, unless you grow baby leaf varieties, once you’ve harvested it you have to replant and start from an immature plant, which is not very efficient. We focus on plants from which we can harvest leaves and then leave the mature plant to grow new leaves. These are known as ‘cut and come again’ varieties.
This helps us reduce the amount of time spent germinating and transplanting in our hub farm, and increases the time spent engaging with the office community. Most of these varieties can stay in place for 6 to 8 weeks, and go through 3 or 4 harvests before we need to replace them. All of the plants listed above are of this nature, other than lettuce and Bok Choy, and we typically wouldn’t grow those in an office installation.
The last thing to add is that we tend to focus on ‘leafy greens’ and herbs, rather than fruiting plants for instance. This is primarily because they grow more quickly, require a more consistent light (fruiting plants require different light for different stages of development) and don’t require pollinating - we are generally growing indoors after all! They are also very popular and hard to find fresh and locally (depending on the time of year). In short, we tend to choose plants based on the environment in which we are growing and the tastes of the local office community.
Please feel free to get in touch if you're interested to find out more about how you could create an office farming community in your workplace. And don’t forget to check out our crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs!
Square Mile Farms bring vertical, urban farming to city dwellers in their homes and in the workplace. We aim to bring people closer to food production and help to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living. Find out more about our offering and get in touch here with any queries. Sign up to our newsletter for tips on a healthy lifestyle and a round-up of relevant news. You can also follow us on social media to stay up to date with our journey, find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Why not join our online Urban Growing Community for advice on growing at home and much more!