Why Extreme Urban Farm Produce Will Be On All Menus Of The Future

Kristin Gladney / Wieden + Kennedy NY
Kristin Gladney / Wieden + Kennedy NY

Deep in the back of America’s industrial neighborhoods grows an agricultural revolution. At the heart of it is Todd Hades, founder of Xtreme Urban Farming, and the hot fruits of his labor: the pepper melon. And it’s about to change urban-farmed hybridized produce forever.

If you’ve never heard of Todd Hades, Xtreme Urban Farming, or pepper melons, you aren’t alone. The Xtreme team’s footprint is small and confined to Hades Firehaus, a warehouse Hades built up from nothing but hard work and his inheritance. In fact, besides a small mention in the print edition of the Journal of Organic Produce Chimerism, hybridic melons are a fairly unknown product of microbiological innovation. But that’s about to change.

“My Nana always said fruits and vegetables should be friends,” Hades says, winking. “We thought they should be more than friends.”

The idea for the pepper melon was simple: Hades encountered the new vitaminwater® fire at his local bodega while he was looking for radishes that gave off a positive aura. The flavor took him by such surprise that he decided his current farming practices, like growing kale, heirloom tomatoes, and basil plants were old news. “He came to us and was like, ‘Let’s stop growing produce. Let’s invent our own,’” says Domino Jansen, one half of Hades’ produce innovation team. “I was like, ‘F*ck yeah.’”

Kristin Gladney / Wieden + Kennedy NY

Jansen was skeptical about marrying the sweet flavor of melon with the spicy flavor of habanero and jalapeño. In 2010, the Journal of Organic Produce Chimerism published a study on the early findings of splicing juxtaposing produce profiles into a single organism. But its findings were largely inconclusive, and, according to the study’s authors, highly volatile. According to the Journal, it resulted in at least one lab incident, marring the results and disfiguring the author.

Despite the odds, and after much trial and error, ambitious agricultural development, and laser-precise harvesting methods, the pepper melon was born. But it wasn’t all fun and games. “What you have to understand about the pepper melon is that it’s a pepper, but it’s also a melon,” says John “The Inferno” Joseph, head of Hades’ agricultural development team. “People don’t know that.”

It was so successful in the Pacific Northwest’s microclimate farm-to-table community that Hades has already heard of other urban farmers planning to follow suit. But so far, there hasn’t been much progress.

“Here’s the thing about extreme urban farming: You need to be extreme,” Hades says. “We have a temperature-regulated greenhouse. We have helmets with flames on them. Guess the last time we weren’t extreme. Never happened so you can’t.”

However, after observing the pepper melon demand from culinary communities like vegans, freegans, the slow food movement, and the found food movement, it’s clear there’s plenty of room for fellow innovators among urban farmers. After all, being so close to the bustle of the city is what gives urban-farmed foods their flavor. If Xtreme Urban Farming and pepper melons are any indication, this is just the beginning of a new movement in food.

As far as Hades and his team, they enjoy being on the front lines of the extreme revolution. But Hades hopes other farming outfits around the globe will join him. “It’s just us and vitaminwater right now,” Hades says. “But I hope other farming outfits around the globe will join us.”