No tractors are needed at Artesian Farm, but ladders are a must – and you better not be afraid of heights! That’s because 10 acres worth of lettuce, basil and kale are grown on shelves up to 20 feet high in a facility with a building footprint that’s less than two-fifths of an acre.
“Farming is in my blood,” says Keith Kudla, Artesian Farm CFO. “I just never did it.”
And by partnering with Market Wagon, Keith can make sure that none of his produce goes to waste.
Keith graduated first in his class at the Air Force Academy, went on to get an advanced degree in public policy from Harvard University before spending the next seven years on active duty. After the Air Force he turned around several struggling multibillion-dollar health care companies. But after a few decades of success, he was ready for a new challenge – something fun that he could be passionate about.
Enter the world of vertical hydroponic agriculture. It’s where produce is grown indoors in climate-controlled conditions so that crops can be harvested 365 days a year.
One of Keith’s neighbors around the corner had a vertical farm and was open to investors. The rest is history.
Keith’s wife Amy says Keith was environmentally conscious before it was cool.
That’s why Artesian Farm is such a perfect fit. It uses 98% less land and 95% less water to grow delicious crops like basil than a traditional farm. Produce grows on 4-7 shelves, all the way to the 22-foot-high ceiling. No chemicals are needed and there’s no runoff to nearby waterways. There’s a zero carbon footprint because the farm uses a hydroelectric power source. Artesian Farm also has been environmentally verified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program or MAEAP.
Because produce is grown under ideal conditions, produce like Muir lettuce matures in just 21 days, twice as fast as it does in soil. And without the sun’s harsh rays, leaves are incredibly tender, even kale.
“Our produce is fresher than a grocery store,” Keith says. “It’s picked in a matter of hours before delivery. It doesn’t take thousands of miles to reach its destination.”
Keith has been a partner with Market Wagon for more than a year, beginning in the Michiana marketplace and then expanding to Chicago Lakeshore. As someone who has spent much of his life operationalizing businesses, he believes it’s a natural fit because if he needs to move more product, he runs a sale so it doesn’t go to waste.
“We’re a farm that is as much an art as a science to meet supply and demand,” Keith says.
Keith encourages you to put the science to the test. His kale is not bitter and stiff like others. In fact, even with ideal growing conditions, it can be difficult at time to grown enough to supply demand. He also particularly enjoys the basil with the stem on, which is perfect for a pesto sauce. Also, don't forget to check out their amazing recipe for a Peach Tomato Basil Salad!