There’s a new organic grower in the Twin Cities organic produce market, and it’s a unique one.
Their produce is grown in water, not soil, and despite long, cold winters, it can be grown year round.
Urban Organics is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic aquaponics grower operating from the same building that once housed the Hamm’s beer brewery.
Fred Haberman, co-founder of Urban Organics in St. Paul., Minn., said the company is exactly where it needs to be.
“The main reason we chose this area is because we live here, but there are some macro trends that include an increased awareness for people wanting to live healthier lifestyles,” he said.
Organic produce is also highly in demand in the Twin Cities, with a strong desire for pesticide-free and GMO-free produce.
Specifically, co-founders Haberman, Chris Ames, Dave Haider and Kristen Haider were drawn to the Hamm’s building for several reasons, one of which is the supply of water.
Plus Dave Haider has a personal connection to the location — his great-grandfather worked there when it was still in operation as Hamm’s.
“We like the idea of locating the facility in an area that needs some urban renewal. It’s helping to impact the neighborhood,” Haberman said.
The company, which began about three years ago, has recently shipped its first produce. On April 1, the first harvest began.
Right now, the company is shipping kale, cilantro and other leafy greens like chard to local Lunds and Byerly’s stores, some only a few blocks away.
“The closest stores are probably only a couple miles away, and others are within 10 miles,” Haberman said.
The company strives to have produce in stores the same day it’s harvested, as local and fresh as possible.
In terms of volume, the company expects to eventually ship between 3000-5000 pounds a month, but that’s a rough estimate.
“We’re cranking up capacity now and it’s hard to say a number because we’re not yet at full capacity,” Haberman said.
In the future, other leafy greens will be considered for production, determined by what the local market is most hungry for.
“We saw a lot of interest first for kale and chard from the start, but there’s no doubt we’ll do basil and other greens,” Haberman said.
In the future, tomatoes may also be a possibility.
Haberman said marketing has been limited, but the company has seen an outpouring of support.
“Lunds & Byerly’s has been kind to us to help promote our story in their publications and signage. Our labels also say the produce it local and USDA-certified organic, but we’re going to work on telling the story more and more that we’re local, but also year-round growers,” he said.