The December 2011 issue of Sustainable Times (available around town at various locations; I picked up mine at The Great Dane) includes a feature by Rick Brooks on Vitruvian Farms. It’s a labor of love for four young guys — three recent UW-Madison grads and one current Badger. College roommates with nary a farmer in their families, they started with a business plan in 2010 and have been working hard ever since. Their primary product so far has been mixed salad greens available from Fresh Madison Market, a grocery store in the heart of the UW campus. As described in this feature by Sara Schoenborn in Agri-View, the market “requests anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds of the Vitruvian Farms lettuce mix every week for their fresh salad bar. [CFO Tommy] Stauffer says this does not include the nearly 50 bags of 6-ounce pre-packaged salad mix that they deliver as well.” Brooks notes that Madison Fresh Market owner Jeff Maurer first met CEO Shawn Kuhn when Kuhn helped document Madison’s “Carrobmob” last fall, when “hundreds of students shopped at the market during a four-hour period one afternoon in a ‘buycott’ — the opposite of a boycott — to facilitate green practices in small businesses.” You can check out Kuhn’s YouTube video below.
In order to get some room to expand and also become eligible to earn organic certification, the farm recently relocated from their original site. The new land, which was a tree nursery in a prior incarnation, is located in the town of Dunn about 15 minutes south of Madison. As Schoenborn reports, “The entire property is bordered with sunflowers, Stauffer says, noting that the flowers will someday be sold as flowers or just as seeds for replanting and/or consumption. ‘We have two acres within an 800-acre soybean field that uses chemicals and pesticides, so we wanted to be able to shield [our crops] with flowers to protect them and give them a buffer zone from all of those chemicals,’ [Chief ‘Visionary’ Officer Ari] Eisenstat says.”
Although they have hopes of eventually expanding their operations to include aquaponics and an apple orchard, their latest investment was in a hoop house that will allow them to grow crops like carrots and spinach through the winter months. Check out their webpage and especially their Facebook page for photos of the newly completed greenhouse and more.