By Peter Becker Managing Editor
MILFORD – With plans for 200 jobs starting no less than $12 an hour, management from the hydroponics vegetable producer All Fresh Farms was welcomed June 17th, at the Pike County Commissioners’ meeting. The new company is preparing to begin operations in Greene Township this year.
Some new details were offered by Steve Nelson, Operations Manager. He also introduced Gary Merritt Sr., a founder of the Florida-based company, Gary Merritt Jr., who will be General Manager at the Pike County plant, and Ernest DeMarco, Certified Public Accountant.
All Fresh Farms will produce as much as 100,000 pounds of lettuce a week, as well as other leafy green vegetables including spinach, basil and kale under contract with major food distributors such as Cisco and US Foods. All of their product will be grown organically, without herbicides, pesticides or even soil. Plants will grow vertically, with a recycled, filtered water system. No water waste will leave the facility. He asked everyone to picture an upright 10 by 10 foot panel, with every three inches have a lettuce head. LED lights will provide the photosynthesis.
Operators will wear white uniforms, gloves and hair nets, to help preserve cleanliness. Water will not be allowed to collect on the floor. Fans will operate continuously, to help ensure insects do not reach the greens.
Their plan is to obtain Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification from the United States Department of Agriculture as an organic producer at the Greene Township site.
Their other facility, Royal Greens LLC, in Ridgeway, South Carolina, opened earlier this year. This site has helped test the operations. Nelson stated that their experience with the South Carolina plant will enable the operation in Pike County, PA to come together all the more quickly. He said that they have no trouble at all finding customers, but in being able to get up to full speed.
They have companies that want them to increase output to 500,000 pounds a week, but that would make a much large investment.
With 53,000 square feet and 18- 20 foot ceilings, they have ample room to start, plus the potential to double the size of the building on the 10 acres of land.
They will not start with 200 employees. Nelson said that they will begin the summer with a small cadre of 15 workers, who will train at the South Carolina site. The company will then add groups of employees, about 15 to 20 at a time, depending on how quickly the firm is able to get up and running. Hiring will be conducted through the Pike County Workforce Development Agency, where candidates will be pre-screened. Advertising will be done in newspapers and online. He said he has already heard from some “impressive candidates.” There are a variety of skills needed, such as in plumbing, electrical, construction and growing plants.