This Hydroponic Farm Supplies Greens at a New Food Hall in Texas

 Margot Masinter in a Growtainer

Margot Masinter in a Growtainer

CONTENT SOURCED FROM DNA MAGAZINE

With Doodle Farms, Margot Masinter is ready to give North Texas something homegrown to graze on. First stop: Legacy Hall.

 Rendering of Legacy Hall

Rendering of Legacy Hall

Growing up, Margot Masinter had little interest in dresses or dance classes. Instead, when she wasn’t dodging hockey pucks shot at her by her two older brothers, you could find her outside, digging in the dirt. It’s how she earned her family nickname, Doodlebug.

It was while in high school, during her first summer job working on a farm in Asheville, North Carolina, when she considered her interest might be more than just a recreational pastime. Proof came while attending Middlebury College, pursuing a degree in environmental studies. Her passion and education were further shaped through courses in farming and food policy, and part-time jobs: growing crops at Dallas’ Eat the Yard, establishing new colonies for the Texas Honeybee Guild, and working at an apple orchard in Vermont.

Trading acres for square feet, Masinter purchased a refurbished and recycled shipping container from Dallas-based Growtainer.

In Masinter’s case, some things never change. The 23-year-old natural beauty still prefers planting to primping and faithfully answers to her pet name—a name that opportunely serves as the DBA for her urban farming start-up, Doodle Farms, which supplies local restaurants with sustainably grown produce.

 A look inside a Growtainer

A look inside a Growtainer

“We need more small-scale farmers,” she says. She expressed her convictions to her father, Mark Masinter, a successful real estate investor and developer and a partner in the 250-acre Legacy West development. The conversation yielded the idea of an on-site hydroponic farm that would service the Legacy Hall food stalls and area restaurants.

Trading acres for square feet, Masinter purchased a refurbished and recycled shipping container from Dallas-based Growtainer to house her chemical-free greens and herbs. The 53-by-10-by-9 metal box is docked on the Hall’s second floor, overlooking the outdoor Box Garden and music stage. Outfitted with LED lights, grow racks, fertilizing tanks, an irrigation system, and an AC unit with fans that control airflow and regulate temperature, the Growtainer provides a perfectly controlled growing environment.

Before she’d harvested her first crop, Masinter had already secured business with Legacy Hall’s Whisk & EggsBravazo Rotisserie, and Détour, as well as other local restaurants—Sixty VinesHaywireThe Ranch at Las ColinasWhiskey CakeShinseiTown Hearth, and Imōto, Tracy and Kent Rathbun’s new Pan-Asian concept. And her dad is such a believer in his daughter and the container-to-table concept that he became her partner in the company. “I loved the idea and wanted to be a part of it,” he says.

Masinter’s fast-cycle microgreens and other highly perishable crops—able to be harvested every eight to 28 days—are densely planted and require very little fertilizer. Masinter admits it is not the most sustainable way to farm—“You still have to use electricity,” she says—but growing in an urban environment requires compromises. “I’ll learn a lot this year and make any changes I need to,” Masinter says. “If anything, it will be a good experiment.”

Her next sustainable urban farm, a procession of raised beds, is already planned on a Henderson Avenue plot across from Gemma. This time, she’ll be back on terra firma and doing what she loves most—digging in the dirt.