Lettuce Grow’s farmstands practically raise themselves.
When actress Zooey Deschanel was pregnant with her first child, she and her then husband, Jacob Pechenik, took a closer look at what they were eating. Deschanel wanted to eat cleaner and healthier but was shocked at the cost of fresh organic produce. “We wanted to figure out a way we could make growing at home easy, affordable, and accessible,” she says.
Pechenik went to work on the problem. A San Antonio native with a degree in chemical engineering who’d already launched a couple of software businesses, he started his own aquaponic farm in Austin, Texas. In the process, he learned the sticker-shock issue with store-bought produce traced not to the growing but to the transporting. “Fifty-two percent [of perishable products] never gets eaten,” he says. “It dies along the way, including in your fridge the day after you bought it.” To eliminate the waste that comes from produce spending too much time in a truck, Pechenik and Deschanel created a business to make at-home farming easy for everyone.
Called Lettuce Grow, the product they created is a home-grow system with a re-orderable supply of baby plants that arrive in the mail and are clicked into place in teardrop-shaped vertical growing containers they call Farmstands. Place them inside or outside, plug them into an outlet, and they self-water.
The BPA-free, FDA food-grade plastic containers come in different sizes. There’s a Teeny Farmstand for the beginner, which can grow a dozen plants, a large one that holds 36 plants, and three sizes in between — five in all. “I didn’t have any prior gardening experience and wasn’t familiar with growing my own food,” Deschanel says. “Lettuce Grow makes it possible for people without a green thumb or any gardening experience at all to be successful growers.”
You can customize your growing plan, based on what you like to eat and how often you cook at home. There’s a lot more than lettuce: The company now offers more than 200 varieties of leafy greens, herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers, depending on season and growing region. The system’s growing cycle is 30 percent faster than what it would be if you planted the same plants in the ground, and the growing season is longer, even through the coldest months of the year. With the newly added lighting kit, you can grow indoors year-round.
“We’re trying to get the message out and the product out and get as many people as we can growing. We want to get into a million households in the next four to five years,” Pechenik says. “For every 10 that are purchased, we donate one to a school. It’s important to us, democratizing the process of food. We want to help people who need it most.”
Photography: Courtesy Lettuce Grow/Max Wanger, Julia Keim
From our May/June 2020 issue.