Vertical Roots St. Paul establishes its roots in the Lakeland

ST. PAUL, AB – St. Paul Elk Point Economic Development Alliance (STEP) welcomes Vertical Roots St. Paul to the region. A local producer of quality greens, Vertical Roots St. Paul has gone from the building phase to a Farmers’ Market regular in a matter of months.

“Our first seeding took place December 28,” Dave Doonanco of CP Pharms shares. “We’re not at full operation [yet], we just wanted to test various growing areas and get used to procedures, because we had a few things to learn.”

CP Pharms entered an agreement with Vertical Roots Canada to establish Vertical Roots St. Paul. This agreement allowed for the purchase of seeds and nutrients, as well as outfitting a 5,000-square-foot facility to put the seeds to work.

“The testing phase doesn’t mean that we’re not producing any product,” Doonanco explains, “The size of the room is different from what [Vertical Roots Canada] worked with in other places. So, trying to get the temperatures right, humidity and airflow – they all need to balance.”

This first batch of product, though not as large as anticipated as they learned about their space, were sold at a discounted price at the Bonnyville Farmers’ Market in January. Samples were also shared with local restaurants.

“You can’t just go to a restaurant and say, ‘buy our lettuce’ or ‘buy our kale’. They want to taste it; they want to look at it. That’s why we wanted to do these test crops and start with smaller crops so that we had a place to sell them and then bring our samples to these places we’re looking to sell at. We’ve now got the tables tweaked, looks like everything’s growing really well,” Doonanco reports, “Right now, for example, we’ve planted enough to do about 600-700 heads per week and that is about half of our current max capacity.”

These heads are planted in racks roughly 55 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 14 feet high. As demand grows, up to four more racks can be added to the space. Along with the leafy greens, the facility is producing microgreens and mushrooms from CP Pharms in the current space. With the building’s capacity for 10 additional grow rooms, there is great potential to expand products in the future.

“We have a whole bunch of space for other things, like processing and packaging. We’re working on a storefront to do a little retail out of here, so we don’t have to haul things all the time. The whole idea is that we’ll have online orders and, instead of having to find pick-up places, they can just come right here.”

“STEP is happy to have played a meaningful role in helping Vertical Roots St. Paul get established in the region,” adds Linda Sallstrom, Economic Development Officer of STEP, who has been working closely with Vertical Roots St. Paul as their greens have taken root.

Vertical Roots St. Paul is making their way to Lakeland Farmers’ Markets. You can find them at the Tuesday and Saturday markets in Bonnyville, Fridays in St. Paul, and Thursdays in Cold Lake. Vertical Roots St. Paul will also be making their way to Elk Point and Lac la Biche when their markets open in March and April, respectively.