Driving toward Tetonia on Highway 33, turning down a dirt road just before Hatches Corner and taking a right by an old red barn will lead you to Clawson Greens. Tucked behind that old barn, surrounded by a pack of neighborhood dogs, is the farm, a 320 square foot repurposed shipping container.
Though there is still some snow on the ground, Clawson Greens has been harvesting for months.
Inside are thousands of plants growing to be used in area restaurants, including the Branding Iron and Chops Eats.
Dave Ridill founded Clawson Greens this fall. The shipping unit arrived in early November and Ridill started planting crops while working as a ski patroller at Grand Targhee Resort.
The USDA defines local food as anything coming from within 50 to 350 miles, Clawson Greens could be called “hyper local.” Its produce only travels between 5 and 15 miles.
“It’s the ultimate farm to table,” said Ridill’s business partner, Stewart Collins.
The idea for Clawson Greens came from Ridill’s experience two years ago working on Collins’ and his wife Deb’s ranch in California.
Ridill said he was blown away by the conditions in the Central Valley of California, where the ranch was located. At that time the region was still in the grips of the state’s historic drought, and part of Ridill’s work on the ranch was helping to prepare the land in case of a wildfire.
At night, he said that he and Collins would sit in rocking chairs at the ranch and talk about the needs of Teton Valley.
The answer was food.
Ridill’s experience working in an area in such dire need of water informed how he would choose to start Clawson Greens.
The system the operation uses is from a company called Freight Farms. The units are used in urban areas, where space comes at a premium. However, they have several features that make them especially well-suited for this area.
They do well in cold climates and they are incredibly water efficient. Ridill said he is able to grow almost 8,000 plants with 10 gallons of water a day, and he said that with fine-tuning that number could be reduced.
For perspective, a 10-minute shower uses around 20 gallons of water and four flushes of a toilet use a total of 12 gallons.
The units also function well in cold climates because the lights installed in them put off a good deal of heat, so much so that the air conditioner has to run even in the winter.
Being a contained system also provides other advantages. Since the plants are hydroponically grown, there is no need for weeding or pesticides. Also the nutrients the plants need can be calibrated precisely.
“We can give them just what they need’ Ridill said.
That means the plants that he grows are “clean greens.” Workers use sanitary gloves when tending to the crops, meaning the plants don’t need to be washed before eating.
While the system may seem high tech, Ridill says that’s really not the case.
“This container of a whole bunch of simple systems linked together,” he said. “There’s no rocket science here.”
Ridill plans to eventually purchase two more Freight Farms containers and hire employees. With that expansion, the three shipping containers would provide Clawson Greens with the equivalent of 6 acres of land. That would expand his production capacity and allow Ridill to hire employees.
Ridill said the system is practical and provides societal benefits as well. The Freight Farms system allows him to be more efficient, reducing the carbon footprint of his farm. Being located in Teton Valley also lets him cut down on the energy required for transportation and eliminates the waste that comes from produce spoiling in transport.
These are advantages that especially come into play during long Teton Valley winters.
“In the past, if you were buying greens in the winter, they were coming from Mexico or southern California,” Ridill said. “Now you can have freshly harvested greens every day of the year.”