Pipe dream becomes a reality for Tlushes
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. — Commercial food production has evolved in recent years to include so-called vertical farms — structures built for the specific purpose of growing specialized foods in climate-controlled buildings.
But there’s a farm outside of Philadelphia that is one of the more unique farms in the region and beyond.
The farm is in a house. Not in a barn. Not in a greenhouse. Not in an out-building. But inside an actual residential house that’s home to a family of four.
The Tlush Family Farm sits among a quiet neighborhood of two-story houses in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
“We grow five types of gourmet mushrooms, 18 varieties of microgreens, and 35 varieties of edible flowers,” said Katie Tlush, founder and chief executive officer of the farm with her husband, Jonathan, co-founder and chief operating officer. “We focus our business on serving private sector chefs, catering firms, country clubs, and restaurants in the region.”
The basement of the house includes the production areas for the microgreens and the mushrooms, while the first level of the house includes seven living walls.
The husband and wife team each have their own specialties that have helped develop this farm.
“Jonathan is very skilled with installing the equipment needed for the farm,” Katie said. “He helped me to get the farm operational, including working on the HVAC system and other electrical equipment. The farm includes a number of pieces of back-up equipment, including a generator and scales.”
“I focus on sales and working with the chefs that use our products in their menus,” she continued. “Research is important to grow the products that meet the needs of our customers. I also have focused on website development and our social media efforts.”
She noted that they deliver their products to customers within about a 15-mile radius of the house. A modest fee is charged for those beyond that distance.
“Our location is critical to our operations,” Katie said. “We’re about 20 to 30 minutes outside Philadelphia. We’re close to many of our customers.”
A small operation in most respects, Katie said they focus their branding on quality over volume.
“Our goal is to be dependable and be able to customize our products to meet the specific needs of individual chefs and restaurants,” she said.
By growing to order, the farm reduces waste and strives to maximize the use of every square foot of the house.
Many of the microgreens are typically planted on Mondays and harvested the next week on Tuesdays. The microgreens are delivered on Wednesdays in Philadelphia and on Thursdays in the suburban communities near the city.
The Tlushs also anticipate continued expansion of their farm.
“We’re on our third expansion thus far, with potentially one more expansion possible within the house,” Katie said.