Log In

Reset Password

Farming reaches new heights - Bowery opens vertical farm on Southside

Bethlehem’s newest farm already has a nickname, “Freshlehem,” and has taken over a former brownfield site that once was utilized for burning coal ash in the local steel industry. It’s a transition that will supply healthy organic food to over 50 million people in a 200 mile radius.

Bowery Farming hosted its grand opening May 26 with tours of the farm and special guest speakers, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Bethlehem Mayor William Reynolds, Department of Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Shefali Mehta, Northampton County Executive Lamont G. McClure and Bowery Farming CEO / Co-Founder, Irving Fain.

As population is a factor in the future of food resources, traditional farming is seeing a decline in land cultivation due to generational family interest falling off through time. Soil depletions are hard to prevent and climate change makes earth growing more difficult to plan for each year. It is estimated by 2050, food production will need to increase by 70 percent to feed a world population of 10 billion people.

Understanding these important issues, CEO and founder Irving Fain of Bowery Farming, originating in New York, explains, “We’ve begun an audacious journey at Bowery, with dogged optimism that indoor agriculture at scale can help to reshape our food landscape. A journey where flavor, safety, sustainability and access guide how we think about farming and feeding our communities. We are modern farmers who are creators, builders, problem-solvers and purpose-driven team players, living our mission every day.” Fain mentioned the origin of the name Bowery; “Our name stems from the origins of a historic lower Manhattan neighborhood. Settled by the Dutch in 1654, the Bowery, originally called bouwerij, the old Dutch word for farm, served as the great connector of farmlands to the heart of the city through the 17th century.”

When you walk into the farmhouse you can forget the overalls and workboots. You will not get dirty; as a matter of fact, you will be just the opposite in the concrete and steel landscape. The modern farmers and anyone else entering needs to run through a process of protection for the most sterile environment possible. Supplied lab style coats, hair and shoe nets, gloves and a good hand washing are required to work in or observe the vertical fields and processes.

Along with a sterile environment, the nature of growing the greens, herbs and strawberries are not subject to pests, weeds or other earthly concerns. Therefore, the food produced is completely organic, GMO and pesticide free. When it reaches the family table via grocers or food banks, it can be placed directly onto a plate without washing. The leafy produce can be found at retailers such as Gerrity’s Valley Farm Market, Giant, Whole Foods, Weis and e-commerce partners like Amazon Fresh.

The farm is completely environmentally sustainable and boasts on its website, “Our newest farm in Bethlehem features pioneering sustainability enhancements. The farm is powered by 100 percent renewable energy and features 15 percent more efficient LED lighting. A state-of-the-art water recapture and filtration system has been custom-built to harness even the water that is transpired from the plants, and ensure the highest-quality food safety standards.” Chief Commercial Officer Katie Sewell said during a tour, “Even the parts of the plant that are not packaged are sent to a local traditional farm, Four Springs, LLC, for composting into their land.”

Sewell said the delivery of the products in a 200 mile radius means no long hauling is needed, protecting the environment even more. It is a community based company that is opening more operations throughout the United States with the same principles and practices.

For more information about climate-smart farming, visit boweryfarming.com/agriculture-technology.

“This project is a win for agriculture and a win for Pennsylvanians,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “I'm proud to have invested in Bowery to help them set roots in the commonwealth and grow a sustainable, food-secure future for us all.”
Right: From seedlings to table-ready greens in approximately 30 days, Bowery's Bethlehem Farm grows and offers through nearby grocers one of their lettuce products, ‘Baby Romaine,' shown here in cultivation. A nice advantage to Bowery greens; no need to wash the product.
Liz Howell of Philadelphia has a tasting of the surprising ‘Mustard Frills' variety. The limited edition farmer's selection is just one of the greens that boasts a special recipe proprietary to Bowery Farms. Serving the sample is Senior Operations Excellence Manager Drew Craven.
A view of Bowery's Bethlehem Farm's indoor agricultural fields of steel. The greens are grown indoors hydroponically, without the need for pesticides or GMO's, making them healthy and fresh for consumers to create sustainable meals with. The facility is powered with 100 percent renewable energy and features 15 percent more efficient LED lighting.
Bethlehem Mayor J. William Reynolds gives a warm welcome to Bowery Farming and speaks about community, city-wide industrial history and the future with companies like Bowery in the Bethlehem region.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, Shefali Mehta, Ph.D. says, “At USDA we are committed to ensuring that all people have access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food, doing so in a way that protects our land and our natural resources. Bowery demonstrates exactly what's possible.”
Ready for delivery to grocery stores from the farm in a 200 mile radius with over 50 million people are boxes of greens for their produce sections. Boxes are also sent to Second Harvest Food Banks of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania.
Northampton County Executive Lamont G. McClure issues a proclamation to Bowery Farming's CEO - Co-Founder Irving Fain upon the grand opening of his newest green, sustainable vertical farm May 26.
Chief Commercial Officer Katie Sewell is washing her hands while wearing a hairnet, booties and lab style coat. Bowery Farms has cleanliness and sanitation as the first operating procedure for everyone entering into the farm system. It is this action that keeps all the food grown sanitary and safe for consumption. Gloves are also required.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK This modern vertical farmhouse was the setting for Bowery Farming Bethlehem's Grand Opening event held May 26. The facility is located in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in South Bethlehem. Transforming a former Bethlehem brownfield from a non-arable industrial site into modern farmland, the company's newest commercial farm lays the groundwork for the next chapter in climate-smart agriculture.