Little Leaf Farms is on a mission to transform the way food is grown and distributed. Now, just six years after breaking ground for its first greenhouse, the company is expanding on founder and CEO Paul Sellew’s vision to provide the freshest, best-tasting baby greens for East Coast salad lovers all year round by bringing Little Leaf Farms to Greater Hazleton.
Sellew said the company found the ideal location to expand its production and open its first Pennsylvania greenhouse in Greater Hazleton, specifically within the McAdoo Industrial Park. Greater Hazleton understands the needs of the food processing industry and this area will allow the company to maintain its goal of delivering fresh lettuce that is harvested and shipped to stores within 24 hours.
“Northeast Pennsylvania really understands the food business and we are proud to be part of this growing community,” Sellew said. “The McAdoo area is a great location to access a number of major markets where we are growing. The NYC metro area, Philadelphia, as well as the entire Mid-Atlantic region, are all growth markets for our company.”
CAN DO President & CEO Joseph Lettiere said “Little Leaf will be a great addition to the McAdoo Industrial Park. We are considerate of the impact to surrounding communities when recruiting industry and, given the technology they will be implementing, the jobs they will be creating and the type of facility that will be constructed, the tract in McAdoo is an ideal fit.”
Sellew said that demand for the company’s lettuces, which include baby green leaf, red and green leaf mix, and baby spring mix, has quickly outpaced what they can grow in their original greenhouse in Devens, Massachusetts. As more grocers outside of New England are discovering the products, interest has piqued in distributing the lettuce in more locations throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
With this growing demand in mind, Sellew said he knew the company needed to find an organization that both understood the needs of the company and how to effectively and efficiently help them reach their customers in these new markets. He said CAN DO was a valuable resource and that played a role in the company choosing the McAdoo Industrial Park.
“Working with CAN DO has been extremely helpful as we navigate the purchase and construction of our next greenhouse site. Their knowledge of the region is unparalleled and they have been a valuable partner to us throughout the entire process.”
Sellew said the company is currently working on constructing one greenhouse with a glass roof across 10 acres and plans to expand and build multiple greenhouses across the site in the future. Site preparation work is underway and the actual greenhouse construction is expected to begin this summer, with an anticipated opening in the first quarter of 2022.
Little Leaf anticipates hiring approximately 50 people for the highly-sophisticated and automated greenhouse. Jobs will include production associates and managers, as well as skilled positions suck as maintenance technicians, seed and growing team members, shipping and receiving workers, truck drivers and administrative support.
Little Leaf Farms plans to develop a “world class facility with leading technologies to produce the highest quality leafy greens”, states Sellew. The company uses top-quality glass to harness the power of natural sunlight to grow its greens. During the winter, it supplements sunlight with efficient LED lights that use 40% less electricity than conventional grow lights. Rain that falls on the greenhouse roof is collected and reused to grow the crispy greens. The lettuces are grown hydroponically using 100% captured rainwater, rather than tapping into groundwater reserves. The company also uses an advanced fertilization and irrigation system that uses 90% less water than field-grown greens. The greenhouse runs a natural gas-powered heating system that operates with over 95% efficiency and is designed to capture CO2 and use it to optimize plant development.
Knowing that more than 95% of all U.S lettuce is grown and processed in California and Arizona, traveling over 3,000 miles to grocers on the east coast, Little Leaf Farms is on a mission to disrupt the lettuce growing process, bringing production to the East Coast. Since opening in 2015, the company has quadrupled in size, and has expansions plans, such as the additional greenhouse in McAdoo, for further growth.
“Little Leaf Farms can better serve East Coast salad lovers by using advanced greenhouse growing technologies and sustainable farming practices to grow fresh, crispy lettuce that is harvested and shipped within a day,” he said.
Currently, the company produces more than 2 million packages of lettuce each month, which are available at major supermarkets and independent grocery stores throughout the Northeast United States. Locally, their products can currently be found at Price Chopper stores in Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and Wyoming.