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Scaling Indoor Farming at Speed: Square Roots' New Michigan Farm Campus

Square Roots | 09.18.19

On September 30, Square Roots will cut the ribbon and officially open our newest indoor farm on the Gordon Food Service headquarters in Wyoming, Michigan. This is the beginning of a strategic partnership that will see Square Roots’ high-tech farms built on or near Gordon Food Service locations across the continent, bringing high-quality, hyper-local produce to customers all year round.

The Michigan Farm Campus is the beginning of Square Roots and Gordon Food Service’s partnership to bring local food to people in cities across the continent, all year round.

The Michigan Farm Campus is the beginning of Square Roots and Gordon Food Service’s partnership to bring local food to people in cities across the continent, all year round.

Scalable Urban Farming at Speed

Square Roots’ partnership with Gordon Food Service was announced at the end of March, and our first co-located farm is opening just six months later. This speed is possible thanks to our modular, scalable farm-tech platform. We can bring our model—perfected in a Brooklyn parking lot—to any city in the world, and we can do it fast.

As our network of farms gets larger, it also gets smarter. Cloud-connected farms and data-empowered farmers learn from each other, enabling Square Roots to replicate success from one location to another, seamlessly. Opening the Michigan farm brings us closer to the vision of a distributed network of indoor farms, bringing local, real food to people in cities across the world—while empowering thousands of next-gen leaders in urban farming through our unique training program.

Data-empowered farmer checking their Square Roots app in a farm.

Data-empowered farmer checking their Square Roots app in a farm.

Love is the Magic Ingredient in Great Tasting Food

Of course, at the center of the Square Roots model are the farmers themselves. It’s their love for the plants that makes our food taste so good! With the food system rapidly changing all around us, there’s never been a more exciting time to forge a new career in farming and contribute to the real food revolution. The Square Roots Next-Gen Farmer Training Program is an incredible opportunity for young, diverse change-makers to learn and take their place at the forefront of urban agriculture.

Thousands of people have applied to our Next-Gen Farmer Training Program, and the demand to join our Michigan farm has been no different. We saw an incredibly diverse group of applicants, with about half local to the Michigan area, and others from as far away as Singapore and Nigeria. (Sadly, we’re only open to U.S. residents right now.) Diversity in perspective is essential for the agriculture industry to build a more complete and sustainable food system—one that can feed 10 billion people by 2050. For example, one of our new farmers, Winn Hermanski, is moving from Texas where he is leaving a career in software sales to join the real food revolution. His understanding of various business models comes with a personal passion for creating solutions for growing urban centers. Meanwhile, Savevone Sonsyanth, a pre-med graduate from Ferris State University, is bringing her love for real food with practical biology experience and an interest in human wellness to a new career in agriculture. It feels like a natural next step. However, the reality is that there are very few opportunities across the world for young people to make this leap. We’re humbled by these stories as it becomes clear that the Next-Gen Farmer Training Program is captivating the minds of so many young people from across the globe and that so many people are eager to help us figure out a new, sustainable food system. One that is ultimately better for people, the planet, and the economy. We’ll be featuring all of our Next-Gen Farmers on the blog over the course of their year with Square Roots, so keep an eye out for their stories.

Michigan Next-Gen Farmer graphic

The Inaugural cohort of Next-Gen Farmers at our Michigan Farm Campus

We’ve also been fortunate to attract exceptional talent to the management team in Michigan. Brian Mitchell, our new Farm Manager, is coming to us from a 87,000 sq. ft. indoor aquaponic facility in Minnesota. And joining us as Assistant Farm Managers are Lauren Niergarth, a horticulture major from Michigan State University, and Eli Zimmer, a former Next-Gen Farmer from our Brooklyn Farm Campus. Eli’s advancement to farm management is just one example of the Next-Gen Farmer Training Program creating pathways to leadership roles for young farmers.

We are thrilled to be working with Gordon Food Service to bring this farm to life and empower so many young people to become leaders in urban farming, while supplying local buyers with delicious food, year round. “Customers want fresh, locally grown food all year round,” says CEO of Gordon Food Service, Rich Wolowski “We’re now on a path to do that at scale with Square Roots.”

Meet the Michigan Next-Gen Farmers

Katie LaRue, Montague, MI

Former teacher and recent Master’s graduate in environmental protection & agricultural food production

Joshua Van Kleeck, Fenwick, MI

Former retail operations manager

Rebekah Box, Muncie, IN

Recent Ball State University graduate in natural resources & environmental management

Amal C. Jennings, Oklahoma City, OK

Former soil farmer

Savevone Sonsynath, Grand Rapids, MI

Recent Ferris State University graduate in biology

Jacob Smaby, Grand Rapids, MI

Former teacher

Alyssa Patton, Grand Rapids, MI

Recent Kuyper College graduate in intercultural studies & theology

Winn Hermanski, Dallas, TX

Former tech account manager

Jarad Jaent, Grand Rapids, MI

Recent Hope College graduate in business

For more information, tune into Gordon Food Service’s Facebook on September 30 at 2:30 pm to view the live stream of the grand opening. Plus, subscribe to the Square Roots newsletter and follow @squarerootsgrow for updates.

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