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State officials heap praise on Banks lettuce farm

It’s official - Banks Township will become the world leader in indoor lettuce production.

Wednesday, dignitaries including Gov. Josh Shapiro dedicated the new facility, which will be six, large greenhouses where lettuce will be grown hydroponically. One greenhouse is in operation, and a second will go online in July. They sit on 76 acres. The company is purchasing another 108 acres where four more greenhouses will be built.

Paul Sellew, founder and CEO of Little Leaf Farms, said his company uses technology to provide fresher lettuce in a sustainable way than anyone else.

“As a company, you have to ask yourself why you exist,” Sellew said. “95% of the leafy greens are produced in San Francisco (California). That is supposed to be fresh. Our lettuce is cut and on your table within 24 hours. That’s fresh.”

Sellew said Little Leaf has a zero carbon footprint, and captures rainwater to use in its irrigation process.

“With the help of Joe Lettiere,” Sellew said, referring to the president and CEO of the area’s economic development organization, which is developing the McAdoo Industrial Park, “and the support of Banks Township and Carbon County, we are becoming the world’s largest.”

Shapiro said companies like Little Leaf will usher Pennsylvania into the future of agriculture that will allow the state to maintain the industry as one of the state’s most important to its economy.

“We maintain the strength of the agricultural sector with projects like this,” Shapiro said. “This is the largest CEA (controlled environment agriculture) greenhouse in the world right here in Carbon County. It uses sustainable technology, and provides $20 per hour jobs that put food on the table for its employees.”

Shapiro corrected Sellew.

“It should be that California is the Carbon County of the West Coast for lettuce, not the other way around,” Shapiro said.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said Little Leaf represents the future of agriculture in the state.

“We are rethinking the fundamental systems of agriculture, but not forgetting our mission to feed people every day,” Redding said.

State Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, said Little Leaf brings more jobs to Carbon County.

Shea Saman, CFO and interim CEO of Feeding Pennsylvania, was there to accept a $10,000 donation from Little Leaf.

“This partnership is important, because one in ten Pennsylvanians are food insecure, including one in eight children,” Saman said.

An overview of Little Leaf Farms in Banks Township in November. On the left is the completed 10-acre greenhouse that is currently in operation, while on the right is a second greenhouse that was being constructed at the time. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO
This is an architectural rendering of the two completed Little Leaf lettuce greenhouses in the McAdoo Industrial Park in Banks Township. A total of six greenhouses is planned. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO