An Upstart Farmer is an innovative farmer who uses efficient, sustainable techniques to grow better food and enrich his or her community.
Let's learn more about one young Upstart Farm and what they're doing in Ontario.
SmartGreens has taken Upstart Farming international with their first Freight Farm (a high-density vertical farm inside a freight container) in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. In just a few short months since their farm arrived in July 2014, they've started growing and selling to various outlets in town.
They've showcased what Upstart Farmers can do in a very short timeline.
With the first few harvests successfully finished, SmartGreens co-founder Eric Bergeron had a lot to say about the farm, the future, and local food.
We can tell that he could not be more excited.
Sweeping the local market
After just a few months of operation, where can you find SmartGreens' farm-fresh produce?
"We are selling to restaurants, a few gyms, a juice bar, and a grocery store right now as well as some direct sales to consumers (depending on how much we have left each week)."
Demand for their produce is strong. "We are selling kale and basil and our kale supply has sold out for the past month while the basil is fast approaching capacity."
"Reception so far has been fantastic. Seriously, we couldn't ask for better support. Everyone loves the quality of the plants and we get people sharing pictures of their lunches all the time. It's awesome. We are also getting a lot of people supporting the local food movement. We are seeing the restaurants being very open with people that they are switching to our greens and that we are locally grown, etc. We were not expecting the local movement to be so strong."
What's in the future?
SmartGreens has a carefully considered business model and path for future expansion.
"We want to stay away from direct sales in general and mainly provide weekly orders. We want to get our produce, especially the basil, into larger grocery chains. We are currently finalizing our packaging in order to list with grocery chains in Ottawa and across the Province of Ontario."
With the versatility of ZipGrow production, SmartGreens will have no trouble serving these markets.
While other Upstart Farmers may choose to serve Farmers' Markets, CSAs, or Restaurants, the best market for each Upstart Farmer depends on their local area and unique farming style.
Starting a Community
SmartGreens isn't just looking out for themselves in the future, either - they're incredibly enthusiastic about supporting other Upstart Farmers.
"I would say that anyone thinking of doing this, should. I find it so incredibly rewarding to grow and harvest food for people. I come from an Internet background and the work just wasn't fulfilling the soul. I am doing this about 20 hours a week right now, so we are considering doubling our output so that my wife and I can concentrate on this full-time."
SmartGreens also has plans to expand their brand across Canada as a distributor of Freight Farms technology. Every Freight Farm- a "Leafy Green Machine," as the container is called, uses ZipGrow technology for efficient, cost-effective indoor production.
"The local food movement is getting stronger and will only continue to grow," Eric continues. "It is important for people throughout the world to start being able to grow food where they live, and your [ZipGrow] products make it very easy for us to do that. The vertical farming technique saves a lot of space and time and allows us to grow enough food to be profitable, in less than 300 square feet of growing space. We are proud freight farmers and think there is a large opportunity for people to get involved in this type of business. Until everyone is growing their own food, there is room in the market.
"It's also not always easy … but it's worth it."
It's hard for us to say it any better than that.
Eric's enthusiasm is paralleled by many others in the Upstart Farmers Community.
Are you ready to join the Upstart Farmer movement?