It was in the middle of the Covid pandemic when Nate Strouse had the seed of an idea, an idea that had its roots when he and his brother, Phil, were children and made annual visits to their farming grandparents in Wisconsin.
Now, just a few years later, that idea is blossoming nearly every day. Every 10 days, to be more precise. Nate and Phil and their company, Grand Valley Micro Farms, are ensconced in the Business lncubator Center, where they grow nutrient-dense young vegetables, plants they can harvest after only 10 days, and thanks to growing them in a nursery setting they get crops 12 months a year.
The added bonus is that they are in Grand Junction, where they grew up and where they can support their aging mother.
It began with a question, Nate said. “How do we do something cutting edge, that’s supporting agriculture, not replacing it? Is there a piece of the puzzle that we can fill in.” The answer was microgreens.
The facilities on the BIC campus have been ideal for Grand Valley Micro Farm’s evolving needs. Utilizing stainless steel shelving, the uber-efficient indoor micro farm is built vertically and allows them to fine-tune the necessary humidity, light, ventilation and water. “You have these biospheres, little microenvironments on each shelf,” Phil said, “so we have to be very attentive to each phase of the operation.” Nate and Phil are both Air Force veterans, and their military background trained them to be detail-oriented, which makes them a good fit with the temperamental nature of micro farming. “We didn’t have to learn responsiveness or reliability on the fly. We already had those attributes ingrained in us,” Phil said.
The brothers envision a growing market. Currently their produce—arugula, sunflower, mustard, broccoli, radish, and kale are among the standard crops—appeals to avid home cooks and chefs at high-end restaurants. But they have formed a partnership with the Community Food Bank of Grand Junction, a partnership they hope will result in food bank clients enjoying a more healthful diet. Their produce can also be found at food trucks and specialty markets across the Grand Valley.
None of this would have been possible, Phil and Nate said, without the help of the Business Incubator Center. They go onto explain that they would have been unlikely to survive the first year without the BIC team helping them. “When you’re planting something, you need the right base and right conditions or the plant is not going to be strong, healthy, and vibrant. The Business Incubator plants that strong seed and provides the right environment to grow a flourishing business. The same kind of right conditions Nate and I provide for our new plants, BIC provides for new businesses,” explained Phil. The incubator, they said, is the community’s “hidden gem.”
To learn more about Grand Valley Micro Farms and the founders, Phil and Nate Strouse, visit their website at www.grandvalleymicrofarms.com.