Friends Trading Company currently grow a whole array of vegetables and micro greens which include sprouts, mung beans, wheat grass, alfalfa, clover, radishes, broccoli, broccoli shoots, micro-pea greens, micro-sunflower greens, and much more. They currently distribute much of their produce to many of our favorite stores such as Whole Foods, Safeway, Vitamin Cottage, Sprouts Farmers Market, and several other big name brands.
In January of 2010, Pat Duffus and Margy Dalpes approached Jeremy Stout and Josh Field, the owners of The Big Tomato, and asked them if they had a solution that could assist them in securing a cleaner and more controlled environment. They wanted to know if it was possible to transition their hydroponic gardening operation from an outdoor greenhouse to an indoor facility using artificial grow lights. In less than two weeks, The Big Tomato had Friends Trading Company completely set up and growing indoors.
Pat Duffus said that he was very skeptical at first as to whether the artificial lighting could produce an equal or better quality of produce as they had previously achieved through utilizing the natural sun and a greenhouse. He readily admitted that he was blown away by the results. As he held up a luscious flat of wheat grass, he smiled and stated, “You don’t have to be a horticulturist to see how healthy and green these are”.
When asked if there were any obvious advantages with taking their hydroponic farm indoors, Margy stated, “We can now maintain the same speed of production during the winter months. We can keep it 70 degrees in the day and 60 degrees in the night”. This is a result of having complete control over the temperature and environment within their indoor facility. They now have the ability to replicate the light requirements of their produce by mimicking the sun from sunrise to sunset. Their artificial lighting environment is all automated as it is set up on a timer system.
Pat said that Jeremy and Josh took over 100 light readings within their greenhouse before their production was moved inside, and they were able to replicate those same light readings in the warehouse where their new grow room was being set up. Pat explained, “Their systems are very user-friendly. They are plug & play. We never needed an electrician”.
Friends Trading Company is focused on sustainable growing practices, impeccable quality produce, and providing dependable service. They have a vigorous Food Safety Program in place. To ensure the highest levels of excellence in food processing protocols, they voluntarily submit themselves and their produce to two independent food safety audit agencies: AIB, well known since the 1950’s, and Steritech, a company approved by The Brassica Sprout Group. As part of the Brassica Program, they do microbial testing on every crop, and have a strict “hold for release” program on all shipments. They have been Certified Organic by the Colorado Department of Agriculture since 1995, and they grow Certified Organic Produce and 100% Natural Produce. And if that wasn’t enough, they are also now an SQF 2000 certified supplier.