5 minute read

The Future of Farming

How two St. Joe’s alumni reconnected and united on a mission to educate others on the future of farming through their business, Ellicottville Greens

In 2018, Gabe Bialkowski ’12 founded Ellicottville Greens (EVL Greens). In 2019, he needed a lead farm manager, and Sal LaTorre ’15 joined as co-founder. Together, they set out on a mission to create a costeffective solution to the “eat local” trends dominating the food industry while focusing on quality, environmental impact, and keeping their St. Joe's history in mind.

Although the two business partners knew each other during their time at SJCI, it wasn't until being reconnected by a mutual alumnus after graduating college that they hit the ground running with Ellicottville Greens.

“When we reconnected, we had similar personal and professional goals,” said Gabe. “We both knew what we wanted to do for Western New York, but that initial connection came from the fact that we were both from St. Joe's.”

They both shared the same vision of having a positive impact on the WNY community.

“When EVL Greens first started, we wanted to create an environmentally sustainable agritourism destination,” said Gabe. “We wanted a place where communities could come together to learn about the future of farming in an innovative campus environment.”

Sal's degree in Culinary Arts/Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University and Gabe's experience in Computer Software Engineering and Management Information Systems at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Canisius College, respectively, paired well in the partnership to create a holistic understanding of the food industry, management, and logistics.

Since launching, Ellicottville Greens has grown into networks of indoor vertical farms. By using old shipping containers as greenhouses, this sustainable alternative can produce roughly one and a half acres of produce in a 320-square-foot box while only needing access to electricity, water, and flat land. Holding true to its name, the company began farming in Ellicottville, NY, but hassince relocated its main campus behind the Eastern Hills Mall on Transit Road.

Centering their resources on three main categories (leafy greens, herbs, and mushrooms), EVL Greens removes the need for long-haul transportation and brings better quality, locally grown food right to someone's door. This business model is attractive to bottom-line-focused supermarkets and health-conscious consumers, since the company can quickly establish a location in Anytown, USA and deliver quality produce at the peak of freshness.

“We started by growing produce and building containers,” Gabe explained. “As the containers grew into indoor farms, the business model followed. We realized that there was an opportunity to scale, but at the same time, with COVID, we began to see logistical problems in traditional farming, which led to food shortages. This was an opportunity to launch indoor farms in hyperlocal settings.”

Through regular monitoring and analysis, EVL Greens can create more efficient and effective growing environments while maintaining its quality standards. As a farm management company, EVL Greens brings its expertise as an operating partner to design, develop, and operate the container farms, with environmental standards in mind.

“We use recycled water systems,” said Gabe. “We are using about 70% less water. We opt into renewable energy, so we are purchasing solar and hydropower. We are using packaging that is 99% plant-based, trying to eliminate plastics.”

But food isn't the only way EVL Greens focuses locally. With each round of funding from investors to grow the business, Gabe is helping to define the startup funding sector in Buffalo by partnering with local venture capitalists who want to help grow the WNY community.

Gabe concluded, “People really understand, especially since COVID, the food shortages, transportation issues, and what is actually in food, such as E. coli and pesticides. Trends for organic are growing as people are being more health conscious and caring about what they eat.”

The company is trailblazing the future of sustainability for themselves and the planet. New projects in the Broadway Fillmore District of Buffalo and a pilot in Louisville, Kentucky, hope to prove the company's success. With the goal of launching managed container farms in ten new markets next year, EVL Greens is just beginning to define what it means to be locally grown, everywhere™.

The Humbert House, Clarence, NY

From the Greenhouse to HUMBERT HOUSE

With the goal of following his lifelong passion, Sal left Ellicottville Greens in August 2021 to open Humbert House on Main Street in Clarence. Located in a historic property, the restaurant features contemporary bistro-inspired food. As Executive Chef, Sal focused his menu around fresh, locally sourced ingredients, with some of the produce coming directly from Ellicottville Greens. For customers who are interested in having a drink at the bar, Sal recommends the Lemon Basil Mojito (pictured below).

“It is our best-selling cocktail and a perfect summer drink,” said Sal. “The addition of fresh lemon basil from EVL Greens makes it really flavorful. Add a little bit of sriracha, and it's fantastic.”