More than 1,300 towers of lush greens and herbs thrive in a futuristic, vertical food farm west of Tulsa. Scissortail Farms uses unique aeroponic technology to grow 30 varieties of lettuce, leafy greens and herbs in a greenhouse on the outskirts of a sizable food desert, as identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We realized that all of these products were coming from the Southwest, Canada or Mexico and everyone was subject to rising and falling prices with climate changes, water shortages or labor issues and they would still have to be trucked and transported in,” says Rob Walenta, co-founder and chief operating officer. “We felt it our duty to provide a local product and work directly with the chefs and end users. At the end of the day we feel like we are creating a cleaner, healthier product in a sustainable way.”
More than 62,000 plants grow simultaneously on towers, their roots suspended in air and misted with nutrient-infused water. There is no soil, a contributing factor to the pristine indoor conditions in the nearly 27,000-square-foot greenhouse, showcased in a virtual online tour at Scissortailfarms.com. The farm uses organic pesticides only as needed.
Walenta and John Sulton, who co-founded the business, began production in fall 2014 and employed 12 people within six months. The farm plans to expand into tomatoes and peppers, which will generate more jobs, Walenta says. An intention to offer prewashed greens will, too.
The farm’s primary customers are local distributors, which serve restaurants, businesses and schools. Consumers can expect to dine on Scissortail’s fresh-cut greens and herbs at Doc’s Wine & Food, Lambrusco’z, Boston Deli Grill & Market, Tallgrass Prairie Table and Juniper Restaurant. Tulsa-area supermarket Reasor’s Foods also carries the products.
In addition, Scissortail Farms invites chefs and home cooks to buy direct. The greenhouse maintains public hours Monday through Saturday at its location at 8450 W. 51st St., west of Tulsa.
“When you actually see the place in person it’s pretty great,” Walenta says. “People are blown away by how cutting edge it is. There is nothing like this in the area.”