Founder, Green Girl Produce
Born and raised in Memphis to a family of growers, Emma Treadwell is the founder of Memphis’s first vertical farm, Green Girl Produce. While she was a server at Sweet Grass in Midtown, Emma started a small garden in the back to provide ingredients for the restaurant with little work needed on the part of the chefs. The garden grew into what Green Girl Produce is today. It now operates out of a warehouse in Midtown, thanks to support from the community and a small grant.
What is Green Girl Produce?
Green Girl Produce is an indoor hydroponic vertical farm. We grow microgreens, micro herbs, and baby lettuces. We create artisanal blends of our products to showcase a variety of colors, textures, and flavor profiles. In order to supply our growing demand, we recently quadrupled our production capability and are now growing close to 45 varieties!
Who are your customers?
Right now, we cater to mainly restaurants and hotels. Recently, personal chefs, mixologists, and food bloggers have been receptive to our products. In April, we hope to be selling at the Farmers Market in Midtown and expand our customer base.
How did you get started?
I was waiting tables at Sweet Grass in Midtown and started building a little garden out back. I was curious about creating a garden that could be easily managed by the chefs in order to facilitate the use and accessibility of the freshest produce possible. From there, I was introduced to the Memphis business incubator scene through Launch Memphis (now Start Co.). I got a lot of support and eventually a bit of funding to build a grow system which I operated on my own for nearly five years. That grow system became the prototype for what I have now.
How have you grown the business?
I was in an office suite for five years and sold to 10-20 customers. It was a struggle figuring out what would sell and how to grow it. It was a lot of experimentation and collaboration with the chefs I got to know over the next five years. I realized that if I was going to do this for the long haul, I needed to expand my operations and my team. Sweet Grass owner Ryan Trimm, who has been a mentor to me over the years, suggested that I grow baby greens. After gauging the demand for baby lettuce with my customers, I developed a plan to diversify our product line to include a wider range of leafy greens (micro herbs and baby lettuces) that would supply a broader market. With the help of the restaurant group Across the Board (Craig Blondis, Roger Sapp, and Ryan Trimm), I was able to relocate to one of their warehouses in Midtown, where they renovated approximately 2,500 square feet into a temperature-controlled environment.
Why did you go with the name Green Girl Produce?
On so many levels it’s about sustainability, empowerment, and growth (both personal and professional).
What’s next for Green Girl Produce?
We’re really excited to develop these new flavor profiles, blending microgreens, micro herbs, and baby lettuce. The Farmers Market is going to be an exciting time to learn from our customers what they like and what they are willing to try.
What are your go-to Memphis restaurants/dishes?
I love City Silo’s buffalo tempeh salad. You also can’t go wrong with the wings from Sweet Grass Next Door, and I love a good carpaccio plate with a lot of greens added in.