Farm-to-table fare just got even closer to the dinner plate as the newest farm in Christian County thrives inside a 40-foot shipping container near downtown Hopkinsville.

The Rabbit's Basket, owned by Rich and Jenny Maddux, is an urban farm and market producing more than 25 varieties of lettuce, herbs, roots and edible flowers at 310 E. 25th St.

The couple started cultivating the greens last fall and launched to the greater community this spring.

Each green is grown hydroponically on vertical towers, then harvested by the couple, their adult children and a former Gateway Academy co-op student before it is sold inside a shop steps away from the growing container.

Rich Maddux, former CEO and president of hydraulic manufacturing company Propulsys Inc., said they decided to try their hand at urban farming for a variety of reasons.

"We were looking for healthy foods, greens, salads, something that was fresh for a couple of different reasons," said Rich.

"Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer," Jenny said. "Fruits and vegetable was what the doctor said, and she said before the age of 20, women should be more focused on eating more fruits and vegetables."

Healthier eating quickly became a focus for the couple and their three children, and they decided to try their hand at urban farming to offer healthier options to the community.

Through research, the couple discovered Freight Farms, which manufactures a 400-square-foot shipping container called The Greenery that grows greens on vertical towers in a controlled environment using technology.

"They (Freight Farms) have figured out how to create the environment and the controls and customize it someway to what you're growing," Maddux said of the Boston company that manufactures The Greenery. "Basically, you've got a container and you're controlling the climate and the watering schedule."

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All of it is automated once the owner sets the cycle and fertility levels. Rich can monitor everything from the amount of light to the pH levels all from an app on his phone.

"Your job is to make sure it's doing it like it's supposed to be," he said. "Being available to handle any issues is the undertaking of it. The rest of it -- the transplanting, the sowing of the seeds, the planting and harvest -- you can kind of schedule. You're not as dependent on the weather and other things."

The Greenery by Freight Farms allows The Rabbit's Basket to produce around 500 full heads of lettuce a week or around 35,000 full heads a year in the heart of Hopkinsville, Rich noted.

Once they're handpicked, the greens are packaged in clear, compostable containers and stored inside a cold fridge for shoppers. Prices for most are $3, and Rich said the greens last longer than regular store-bought because they are picked at peak freshness.

Zena Maddux, the couple's daughter and a student at Centre College, said a food sustainability class opened her eyes to the importance of knowing where food comes from.

"I started eating a little bit healthier in high school," she said, "but in college, I took a class and learned about food deserts and climate change and how our food might be affected by the gas of shipping. With this, you know where this is coming from, and it's kind of cool to say that came from 25th Street."

Jenny said Freight Farm staffers recommend varieties that other farms have been successful with, but the couple decides what to cultivate from there.

"We're just trying to make sure there is some variety between different types of lettuce, like butter lettuce or romaine, green and red romaine, and we have some crisp lettuces that are more crunchy," she said. "I had no idea that there were so many."

Rich said once they started taste-testing they realized how different each lettuce can be.

"There's spicy, bitterness, sweetness, then there's texture," he said. "There's a lot out there. People come in and wonder, 'how do I choose.'"

The Rabbit's Basket is open from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday and from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at 310 E. 25th St., Hopkinsville. For more information, visit therabbitsbasket.com or search The Rabbit's Basket on Facebook.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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