By Matt Sanctis - Springfield News-Sun Staff Writer
Ethan Snyder was selling vegetables at farmer’s markets throughout the Columbus area when his dad offered a suggestion that led to the creation of a growing business in St. Paris.
Old Souls Farms, a hydroponic produce farm in Champaign County, has been in business for two years now. But the business is preparing for an expansion this fall after steadily adding clients at restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Columbus area, including Whole Foods. The big change, Snyder said, came when his dad suggested switching from farming outside to growing hydroponic lettuce in a quarter-acre greenhouse.
“My dad came to me and said, ‘I think I have a better idea,’” Snyder said.
For the past two years, Snyder and high school friend Vic Kaczkowski have been studying hydroponic farming techniques to provide lettuce, basil and other herbs to their clients year-round. They went to high school in Delaware County, but built the business in Champaign County in part due to its proximity to other markets like Cincinnati and Dayton. The biggest challenge, Snyder said, was breaking old habits about how to grow produce.
by Joshua Keeran, Urbana Daily Citizen
With the south side of Urbana currently serving as a hotbed of sorts for economic development, Colorado-based Crop Production Services (CPS) has decided to add to the ongoing construction in the area by redeveloping the former Interstate Truckers Inc. facility at 668 state Route 55 into a fertilizer distribution center.
“We’d like to be open and have some type of functionality this fall,” said Steve Emery, the southern Ohio division manager for CPS. “Fall is fertilizer season as harvest takes place, so we’d like to proceed as far as excavation and things of that nature.”
To get the ball rolling on the project, the Urbana Planning Commission on Monday approved a preliminary site plan contingent upon all comments made by the city’s Technical Review Committee, zoning officer and community development manager being addressed and incorporated into the final site plan drawings.
“While we don’t have everything fine tuned, we are certainly willing and want to cooperate with your board and city regulations as best we can,” said Jim Sawyer, an engineer with J&S Engineering, the firm hired by CPS to work on the project.
By being granted preliminary site plan approval, CPS is allowed to begin excavation or site work – includes foundation and utility work – on the 10-acre property located just west of Honeywell Aerospace.
“I think it will be a great shot in the arm for Champaign County and, in particular, the city of Urbana,” Sawyer said.
CPS’ plans for the site include adding onto the existing building, which will be the main office space, building a 20,000-plus-square-foot liquid fertilizer storage facility, and constructing a 12,000-plus-square-foot dry fertilizer storage building.
Considering the facility will be housing fertilizer, Emery and Sawyer assured the Planning Commission that all necessary precautions will be addressed to make sure the property complies will all laws and regulations.
“Being the largest wholesaler of agricultural fertilizer in the world, (CPS) pretty much sets a pretty high bar for safety,” Sawyer said.
Marcia Bailey, executive director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, called the upcoming project “another boost in the economic outlook for our community.”
“The opportunity to bring a vacant building back to use is always a good thing,” she said.
Bailey added the company anticipates the facility being fully operational by spring 2018. By this time, CPS anticipates the Urbana location will employ eight to 10 full-time employees and four to six part-time seasonal employees.
Bailey added CPS’ investment in the property along with bringing new employment to the area is important to not only the city, but also the county as it will add to the current tax base.
With several construction projects already underway in the general vicinity of the planned CPS fertilizer distribution center, what’s next for the city’s south side is anyone’s guess.
“The corridor (southern entrance) is being enhanced with the new Urbana City Schools (building), and the continual expansion and investment along state Route 55 (Lewis B. Moore Drive) creates the opportunity for further progress with additional business opportunities,” Bailey said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.
by Casey S. Elliott | Urbana Daily Citizen
The 2017 Farmer of the Year is Ed Funderburgh.
Funderburgh received the award alongside his family and wife, Terri, on Monday at the annual Urbana Rotary Rural Urban Night. The event was originally designed by the Urbana Rotary Club to foster understanding between farmers and city residents. The Farmer of the Year award began in 1972 to represent the entire farming community, Judge Roger Wilson said.
“I’m very humbled to be here,” Funderburgh said while accepting the award. “We (farmers) provide food, and it’s a business, but at the same time, you know you are providing the livelihood for a lot of people. It’s good to know it’s appreciated. It’s enjoyable to do.”
Wilson presented the award and background information on Funderburgh at the event. [Read the full article on UrbanaCitizen.com]