How Sustainable Growing Technology Creates USDA-Certified Herbs

By Philip Karp
June 18, 2014
Shenandoah Growers

Shenandoah Growers has more than two decades of experience in culinary herbs—those that are fresh cut and kept in those plastic “clam” packs you often see in the supermarket, as well as living organic herbs that you find in pots in the produce section of your supermarket. The decade-long relationship we’ve enjoyed with Walmart is indicative of our shared commitment to sustainable business practices.

We’ve learned some of those practices from Lincolnshire Herbs, a fellow herb grower in the U.K. that serves Walmart subsidiary, Asda. We share many systems and processes – such as capturing rainwater for use in plant irrigation, and using computerized methods to control ventilation – that make our growing practices consistently “green.”

Using innovative technology and sustainable agriculture practices is how many of our products bear the “USDA Organic” label, meaning they have been raised in accordance with U.S. National Organic Program requirements. This is important to us – and to consumers who want fresh, organically-grown herbs straight from the plant as a natural, healthy way to add flavor to meals. 

One of the unique aspects of our greenhouse is a flapper technology on the cart that moves over each line of several times per day. We built this into the original greenhouse design back in 2008. The flappers play an integral role in the growing process for these plants, as well as the biological controls that protect them. Because our plants are certified organic by the USDA, we have to make sure all biological controls are also organic. The flappers pass by the plants 14 times per day, they shake the leaves, which disturb insects. When these insects fly up, they get caught on the yellow sticky tape that is connected to the apparatus. It’s an ultra-organic insecticide, in a sense.

These flappers also help make the plants stronger. Every time they move across the tops of the plants, they brush the leaves, simulating the wind. This brushing of the leaves forces the plant stalks to become stronger to support that movement and keep the plant from falling over. That strengthening is part of the natural process of a plant to support itself against the elements. Ultimately, this helps grow plants that are stronger than other greenhouse grown herbs, allowing us to supply our customers with high quality, strong plants year round—and consumers with herbs they can enjoy around the dinner table.