From Tulsa’s Scissortail Farms
John Sulton and Rob Walenta are Tulsa farmers, but not in the traditional sense. They are entrepreneurs who are growing high quality lettuces and leafy greens utilizing aeroponic technology. Their farm is a 26,000 square foot greenhouse in West Tulsa and their fields include a series of vertical tower gardens with no soil.
Aeroponics is a growing method by which plants are grown in a tightly controlled environment without soil and very little water.
This eliminates the use of traditional fertilizers such as animal manure which has been identified as a source of E. coli and other diseases. The way aeroponics works is that plants are cultivated in vertical growing towers and their roots are fed with a nutrient rich water solution that circulates through the system. Because of this process, food crops grow faster than they would in soil. It takes between six to eight weeks to grow lettuces while herbs take two to three months to mature.
CEO and co-founder John Sulton says, “We have been farming locally grown, chemical and manure-free leafy greens for our community for the past two years. The aeroponic technology we use minimizes our environmental impact and preserves water as compared to traditional growing methods. We can grow produce year-round which eliminates the need for local chefs and distributors to order and ship in produce from other locations during non-growing months. The produce from our farms reaches your table faster and has a longer shelf life due to reduced time spent in shipping.”
Sulton’s partner and COO, Rob Walenta, says “The controlled environment of the greenhouse protects the plants from uncontrollable outside elements such as adverse weather conditions and insects. We are able to provide the freshest produce possible.” In fact, Scissortail utilizes a food safety system and has been audited by a third party for purity from seed to finished product.
“When we were searching for a business idea to pursue, we came across the hydroponic farm featured at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida,” said Sulton. “We liked the idea that the product is sustainable, local and could provide consumers with same-day freshness.”
Before creating Scissortail Farms, both Sulton and Walenta were working in non-agriculture jobs. Sulton was an aerospace engineer in Tulsa at NORDAM and Walenta was a project manager in Tulsa at KMO Development Group Inc. “We started the business because we saw an opportunity to make a big difference in the community and to be involved with something that can have a positive impact on all involved, says Sulton. “We knew we could help with supply and demand issues associated with produce for chefs who are often limited to what can be grown locally during specific seasons.” The duo originally met attending school at Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, and remained friends through their college and professional careers.
Both partners are involved in the community and with area schools and children. “We participate in as many school events as possible to be involved with the students. It is great that they have an opportunity at such a young age to learn about where their food comes from,” said Walenta.
What’s in the future of Scissortail Farms? They plan on expanding capacity in their current greenhouse and can build additional buildings as needed. They are currently testing vine plants which have different growing requirements.
Scissortail products are currently sold through retail outlets including Reasor’s and Oklahoma Food Coop; Tulsa restaurants including Doc’s, Stonehorse Café’, Tallgrass Prairie Table, La Villa at Philbrook and East Village Bohemian Pizza; and distributors including Freshpoint, GoFresh, Tankersley and Urban Agrarian which services restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools. Products can also be ordered directly from Scissortail Farms by emailing them through their website at ScissortailFarms.com.
Scissortail Farms is located at 8450 W. 51st Street in Tulsa. Virtual tours of the farm can be taken online at scissortailfarms.com/tours/virtual-tour.