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Swartz Family Farm An Example Of Successful Family Hydroponics

The Swartz family farm is extending its reach to help create urban rooftop gardens in Boston and the Bronx. The Swartz family farm is extending its reach to help create urban rooftop gardens in Boston and the Bronx.


Just off of Meadow Street in North Amherst, Massachusetts lie 40 acres of fertile farmland known as the Swartz family farm. Sandwiched between a local highway and a quaint residential neighborhood, the farm has stood the test of time since it was first founded in 1919 by newly immigrated Polish settlers, John and Anastazia Swartz.


John and Anastazia passed their farm down to their two sons, John and Walter, who continued to grow the family's most popular crops - potatoes, cucumbers, tobacco, and onions. When John Jr.'s son, Joe Swartz, graduated from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts in 1986, he took over the family business already three generations strong and invested in a relatively new form of farming called hydroponics.

Since then, Joe and his wife Sarah have never looked back. The successful farmers have not only kept their family's legacy of farm-fresh Massachusetts produce alive but have diversified their market with hydroponics both in their community and in the big city.

On the farm, the Swartz's grow a variety of leafy greens including arugula, bok choi, collard greens, kale, lettuce, and salad greens, as well as basil, cilantro, and mint. Their hydroponic system was designed by Joe himself and his greenhouse, which originally spanned 5,000 square feet, has since blossomed into 15,000.

Although the Swartzes can't claim that their produce is organic, the family does not use pesticides at any stage of the growing cycle and instead rely on meticulous sanitation and biological insect control. The proud hydroponic growers estimate that their proprietary system uses only 1/10th of the water necessary for growing crops in soil, 1/6th of the nutrients, and through a controlled and closed environment keeps poisonous run-off from reaching the water table.

After 22 years of successful hydroponics and 43,000 hours in his greenhouse, Joe decided he had enough experience under his belt to extend his years of knowledge to a consulting service. Newbie hydroponic farmers looking into controlled environment agriculture are the type of customers Joe hopes to help install and design aeroponic, deep raft, bag culture, ebb and flow, and nutrient film technique hydroponic systems, and tackle problems like heating, cooling, ventilation, insect control, and aeration.

His dedication to his craft paid off. Just this year, Joe teamed up with other like-minded entrepreneurs to found an 8,000-square-foot rooftop greenhouse in the Bronx called Sky Vegetables.

Sky is the first rooftop greenhouse built on top of affordable housing and has industry-leading Joe as its director of farming. The Bronx, like many other tightly populated urban centers, is a fresh produce desert - something that will soon be a thing of the past thanks to the new facility. The farm is already harvesting nearly 2,500 pounds of herbs and other leafy greens weekly, which they sell through CSA shares and a grocery delivery company, Fresh Direct.

They also donate a portion of their harvest to the local food bank.

The greenhouse in the Bronx is just another chapter in the rich farming history of the Swartz family. Soon, Sky Vegetables will be opening another rooftop garden in Boston, this time with nearly 63,000 square feet of growing space. Back in Amherst, the Swartzes will continue growing vegetables to keep the local farmers markets full of fresh, hydroponic produce.

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