One of the highlights of our last VALOR seminar was learning about the green industry on the “other side of the mountain.” That’s right, this Hokie ventured into Charlottesville for a few days.
While there are many greenhouse facilities scattered around Virginia, the bulk of the environmentally controlled square footage is in Central Virginia. According to the Greenhouse Grower Top 100 list, two of the largest greenhouse facilities in Virginia are both located south of Culpeper.
One of the newer greenhouses in Central Virginia is BrightFarms’ Capitol Greenhouse. This facility has approximately 150,000 square feet of growing space in Elkwood. The company has taken a unique approach to hydroponic production of greens and herbs with the hopes of using less water, land, and fuel than conventional production. Much of their efficiencies are gained from being located close to their customers, which means a fresher product with less transportation.
BrightFarms hopes to create the first national brand of local produce by working in partnership with retailers. The Capitol Greenhouse grows exclusively for Giant, Martins, and Peapod. You can find their products here.
We were fortunate to have Mark Benoit, the head grower, give us a tour of the greenhouse he manages. It was clear in our conversations with Mark that not only is BrightFarms taking an innovative approach to agricultural production, but they are open to new ideas from all levels of management. While listening to and empowering your employees isn’t really a new thing, it certainly isn’t widespread. However, the benefits of this approach are evident in the company’s success not only with their production metrics, but with employee retention and employee satisfaction.
Thank you to all our hosts in Central Virginia!