ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Tampa Bay is full of hidden gems, and even hidden farms.
Brick Street Farms is nestled off of 2nd Avenue South in downtown St. Petersburg, and is making the most of its modest space. It opened about two years ago. At the time, it only served its produce to local restaurants and hotels. Then, more than a year ago, the farm opened its doors to the public with retail and farm memberships.
"We specialize in all things leafy green," said owner Shannon O'Malley, who actually worked with computers before switching to farming. "So, we have about 10 to 12 varieties of lettuce. We do four to five varieties of baby kale, chard, herbs, edible flowers, microgreens, sprouts."
All the growing magic happens inside several containers, which totals roughly 1,200 square feet, but O'Malley says her farm is able to generate 430,000-square-feet worth of produce.
"We actually grow 8 to 10 acres of produce every five weeks," O'Malley says. "We might look small, but we're actually a commercial grower. We go through 50,000 plants every five weeks."
Brick Street grows its crops hydroponically, striving to do the most with the least waste, tailoring water and light conditions specifically to what each type of plant likes.
"We use an LED lighting system, which means there's no sunlight used. We control temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, nutrient levels," O'Malley says. "We make every bit of use of the vertical space, which is why we're able to cram so much into a small space."
All that effort has put Brick Street's team up to its eyeballs in leafy greens, but the farm is starting to branch out, recently digging into tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries.
It doesn't get fresher than this either. O'Malley said everything goes straight from the farm to their market on-site or to their buyers within hours.
Speaking of the market -- shoppers and farm members will find small batch products either grown on the property or locally made. In addition to produce, the market offers items like honey, vinegars, and kimchi. O'Malley says the offerings are constantly changing too.
"I definitely think this is the way of the future," O'Malley says. "People really want to know where their food is coming from. We do everything without chemicals, without pesticides, no dirt, no bugs, non-GMO, no animal products, no animal fertilizers so we eliminate all the contaminant risks with our produce."
If you're interested in a tour, you can schedule a group tour. For more information, check out Brick Street Farms' website.