Lee’s Greens offers fresh produce year round

Ronna Lawless
Lee’s Greens offers fresh produce year round

Snow storms, icicles and plunging temperatures may make gardening seem like a distant dream. But at Lee’s Greens near Nevada, rows and rows of winter greens are being grown and harvested from now until spring.

With one acre of heated greenhouses on the three-acre farm, produce such as leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, red kale, green kale, Swiss chard, salad turnips and radishes is being grown in raised beds during the off season.

Lee Matteson and Rose Schick are co-owners of Lee’s Greens, which is located at 66296 Lincoln Highway. Before starting Lee’s Greens, Matteson worked for seven years as a greenhouse grower and five years as a fruit and vegetable grower. Schick grew up in northeast Iowa and holds a B.S. and M.S. in horticulture, with a specialization in genetics from Iowa State University. Although they both received their degrees at Iowa State, they met while working at the Berry Patch near Nevada.

Their mission is to provide high quality, fresh, locally grown produce year round in heated greenhouses. “The winter greens can tolerate a drop in temperature to as low as 35 degrees, and then the propane heaters in the greenhouses kick in to keep the plants from freezing,” Matteson said. “We grow greenhouse salad greens from September through May.”

Produce is harvested to order and arrives to the customer within 24 hours. Lee’s Greens sells directly to customers through food cooperatives, CSAs and farmers’ markets. They also sell to individuals, area restaurants, grocery stores and caterers throughout Iowa.

In July, when the Dave Matthews Band was performing in the area, the band requested the caterer provide locally sourced food as much as possible. As a result, Lee’s Greens supplied tomatoes, zucchini, peppermint and black raspberries to the performers.

Many of Lee’s Greens customers are individuals and families who agree to pay ahead and receive weekly deliveries of winter greens. This practice is known as a CSA, or community supported agriculture. “Customers order and pay ahead of time, which helps the farmer purchase seed and other materials. Basically they’re agreeing to share the risk with the farmer, and that helps the farmer a lot,” Schick said.

Matteson, who lives in Colo, and Schick, of Nevada, started their business in the summer of 2013. They now have five greenhouses, where they grow winter greens, tomatoes, peppers and microgreens, depending on the season. Currently, most of the greenhouse space is for winter greens, growing in raised beds, watered with a drip irrigation system.

Lee’s Greens also offers customers fresh duck and chicken eggs. “Our chickens and ducks eat greens all winter long and get spoiled from that,” Matteson said.

During the warmer growing season, Lee’s Greens produces a variety of berries, including strawberries, red raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries. “We have a super crop of black raspberries, which are my favorite berries,” Matteson said.

From April through August, Lee’s Greens grows early tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers. Produce is grown outside the greenhouses during the normal growing season, which includes rhubarb, berries and classic vegetable crops.

For more information about Lee’s Greens, including ordering info, visit the website at www.leesgreens.com.