Back From Afghanistan, and Straight to the Greenhouse

A Taste of Graduate-Level Research and Potential Careers
September 22, 2016
Paul Dunn ’03
October 18, 2016
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Back From Afghanistan, and Straight to the Greenhouse

Mark Benoit, who grows hydroponic produce, talks about his rapid, unexpected transition from being a soldier to being a farmer.

from The Atlantic on 10/4/16 – Greenhouses supposedly date back to the first century A.D. and for most of the time since then, they were a niche technology used for producing small amounts of produce mostly for the wealthy. It wasn’t until the 1900s that greenhouses were used as a method of growing large quantities of crops. Even more recently, the locavore movement has sparked an interest in and demand for hydroponic vegetables, which can be grown in greenhouses.

Mark Benoit is the head grower at BrightFarms Capitol Greenhouse in Elkwood, Virginia, where he oversees, year-round, 200,000 square feet of greenhouses. I talked to Benoit, who served in Afghanistan, about how he got into agriculture, what he likes about working with greenhouses, and how the transition from the army has changed him. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Bourree Lam: What is BrightFarms, and what do you do there?

Mark Benoit: I’m the head grower for BrightFarms here in Elkwood, Virginia. BrightFarms is basically a startup that builds and operates greenhouse farms in partnership with different supermarket chains. We want to create the first national brand of local produce, and we currently specialize in hydroponic tomatoes and cut salad greens.

We work with local retailers—around here it’s Giant, Wegmans, Martin’s, Peapod, Roundy’s. We basically just deliver fresh produce to them and cut down on the number of miles food travels. We scale with them [by increasing or decreasing the quantity of crops] as well; we do that year-round.

Read the full interview on The Atlantic >>

feature photo of BrightFarms Capitol Greenhouse.