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Living salad bar could be the wave of the future

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Posted at 2:27 PM, Apr 04, 2022

DALLAS, TX — Walking around a massive greenhouse on the campus of Texas A&M’s Agrilife program just outside of Dallas, Joe Masabni grabs a handful of fresh basil growing out of what resembles a section of gutter from the side of a home.

As he clips the basil, an aroma of herbal essence fills the space around.

“You can just smell that freshness,” Masabni explains.

Masabni has spent decades researching the urban horticultural movement and spends his time helping to advise average, everyday Americans who are looking to start growing their own food.

“The first year is a struggle but after that, there’s a joy in growing plants year-round,” he explains.

At Texas A&M, they are taking urban horticultural to a new level and to a new place: the office breakroom.

Every few weeks, rolling greenhouse carts are rotated into the campus cafeteria. For lunch, employees can pick their own leafy greens straight from the source in a vertical garden system.

“We just need to encourage people to grow their own food,” said Dr. Genhua Nio, who helped start the program.

Dr. Niu sees the whole concept as having much broader implications. Many schools across the country are experimenting with growing their own food indoors. Not only does it provide a fresh, healthy batch of produce but it also helps people have a better appreciation for where their food comes from.

“Hopefully we can grow more fruiting vegetable, tomatoes, strawberries in a controlled environment,” she said.

Back in the greenhouse Joe Masabni knows it will take time for the urban horticultural push to move beyond just indoor spaces, but he sees the future of food production in this country happening here in the great indoors.

“Land is becoming more and more scarce," he said. "There’s more development. It’s becoming cheaper to build indoor farms on the periphery of a city."