Huntington Native Brings Urban Farming to Long Island
The farmer, who’s on a mission to grow the perfect head of lettuce, will be at the Huntington Indoor Winter Farmer’s Market this Sunday.
By Paige McAtee (Patch Staff) – January 20, 2017 6:59 pm ET
East Northport resident Jonathan Bernard is on a mission to bring urban farming to Long Island and start a real food revolution.
Bernard, 24, is a graduate from Half Hollow Hills West High School and Stony Brook University, where he earned his Bachelor’s in accounting.
The accountant-turned urban farmer, who has always loved to cook and grow vegetables, gave up crunching numbers to focus on urban farming with Square Roots. He officially started farming in October.
Bernard farms lettuce in a 40-foot-long container and grows about 1,000 heads of lettuce a week. His goal is to grow the perfect head of lettuce.
“I’m getting pretty close to it,” Bernard told Patch. “It’s kind of like a science to get these things right.”
Bringing Urban Farming to Long Island
Bernard told Patch he wants to bring his lettuce to Long Island to show everyone what real food tastes like.
Eating fresh produce is a different experience most people on Long Island don’t get to experience, he said. Fresh produce surprisingly tastes a lot different than the vegetables in grocery stores.
Bernard said he was shocked the first time he tasted fresh spinach.
The Huntington native already sells his lettuce to Lalo, a restaurant in New York City, but is looking to go directly to the consumer.
Bernard will be selling his lettuce Sunday at the Huntington Indoor Winter Farmer’s Market, located at 155 Lowndes Ave. in Huntington Station, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This will be his first week attending.
His goal revenue for the year is $150,000. While accounting isn’t a necessary skill for farming, it does help when he focuses on the business side of things. “Business is definitely harder than I thought it was,” he added.
How to Grow the Perfect Head of Lettuce
“Just by changing the humidity you can make any vegetable crunchier or softer,” the urban farmer told Patch.
The space where Bernard grows his lettuce uses less resources and produces more crops than traditional farming. Vegetables are grown using LED lighting in a controlled climate with no GMO or pesticides used. About 80 percent less water is used in these spaces since the water is recycled.
Unlike produce in grocery stores, these crops are nutrient-dense, Bernard said.
Square Roots vegetables have a higher cost than typical produce, but Bernard says the advantage is you can harvest it and it lasts two to three weeks as opposed to produce in grocery stores that take a week to arrive and wilt three days after they’re purchased.
About Square Roots
Bernard is one of 10 farmers chosen to kickstart the Square Roots movement, which is based in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
Square Roots, which was founded by Kimbal Musk and Tobias Peggs, looks to bring fresh, good tasting and nutrient-dense food to consumers year-round.
The farmers/entrepreneurs are required to grow their crops and businesses and after a year, they’re expected to go off on their own. Square Roots will choose another group once the original 10 leaves.
By then, Bernard will hopefully be selling perfect heads of lettuce directly to Long Island consumers.