ST. PARIS – A growing business in Champaign County brings a fresh approach – year-round – to local agriculture.
Contrary to its name, Old Souls Farms, at 9684 Smith Road, St. Paris, was launched in 2015 by two young men – Ethan Snyder and Vic Kaczkowski – who’ve been friends since middle school in Columbus.
And Old Souls diverges from Ohio farming tradition. Snyder and Kaczkowski grow several varieties of head lettuce, specialty greens, herbs and microgreens – 365 days a year – in a sleek, well-engineered 100-by-100-foot hydroponic greenhouse. The hydroponic system continuously circulates nutrient-enriched rainwater (collected from the greenhouse roof) to the plants’ roots. Water not used by the plants is recirculated.
To meet growing demand, Old Souls Farms will put a second 100-by-100-foot greenhouse into operation in January.
The farm’s largest customer is Whole Foods in Columbus. Others include independent groceries, restaurants and farmers’ markets. And the farm is working to expand into Whole Foods and other markets in greater Dayton and Cincinnati. Kaczkowski’s brother, Nick, directs sales for Old Souls.
Old Souls customers receive orders within 24 hours of harvest. Best case, Snyder adds, is within three to four hours.
In contrast, produce shipped from California arrives on Ohio grocery shelves two weeks after harvest. “That gives produce managers only four to five days to sell the produce,” Snyder said. “We can give them two weeks, which leads to less food waste.”
Old Souls Farms recently added a new service for local produce growers: custom processing and packaging. Snyder said that packaging in small quantities adds value, giving their customers the advantage of a larger profit margin than possible with bulk sales.
With little background in farming, Snyder and Kaczkowski bring an entrepreneurial vision to their business. Snyder, who was studying history at the U.S. Military Academy until he dropped out, grew and sold produce at farmers’ markets in his teens.
Kaczkowski, who is two generations removed from his family’s work in dairy farming, decided to join his friend in the enterprise. He was dissatisfied with his career choice of engineering – though he put that to use designing the greenhouse system.
For more information, visit oldsoulsfarm.com.
Gary Schenkel wrote this article for the Champaign Economic Partnership and the Urbana Daily Citizen.