Owner, Greener Roots Farm
The built environment depends on the natural for sustainability, and that nexus created the formation of Jeffrey Orkin’s career. He earned a degree in landscape architecture and contracting from Mississippi State University before working as an urban land planner with noted developer Gresham, Smith & Partners, where he designed urban streetscapes and innovative stormwater management systems.
In his free time, Orkin was growing food on his windowsill in a downtown Nashville high-rise apartment. That effort expanded to a storage unit converted into a hydroponic grow room, and when he ran out of space there, to a utility room on the rooftop of a building. That experiment led to a change of focus when the development industry was idled by the Great Recession and Orkin was laid off.
Unphased, he earned an MBA, then built and sold a landscaping business, searching for ways to create sustainability among oceans of fescue lawns, cool-season grass with tolerance to heat, cold, and drought. Then he launched Greener Roots Farm, establishing a lettuce production facility in a large warehouse environment. It was a niche that Nashville’s booming culinary industry was looking for, and Orkin realized he could meet that demand for thousands of pounds of leafy greens each week from a controlled environment—light, moisture, nutrient levels, and biological controls were dialed in to create the most beautiful, lush, and vitamin-dense greens available.
At Southall, the hydroponic greenhouse operated by Greener Roots Farm gives the night sky a gentle, pink glow and produces perfect greens for guests. Orkin grows herbs and leafy greens exclusively because they don’t require pollination and thrive in a hydroponic environment. They can be produced reliably year-round, and they form the basis of so many dishes—the demand for a few hundred pounds of lettuces can be met each week, regardless of weather. Everything is grown without the use of pesticides, which requires strict control over access to the facility. Guests are encouraged to peek through the windows and see how the vast root systems reach deep into the pools to soak up and create life.