26 June . 2023
Meet two Canyon Falls residents growing a healthy (and delicious) new business
After learning how to raise vegetables in the desert, a Canyon Falls couple is growing a new business to help other North Texas families enjoy the tasty health benefits of fresh produce all year long.
Their Denton-based vertical farming company, Boterna, offers a wide variety of lettuces, kale, arugula, herbs and other leafy greens for delivery through their website, and you can find them at a growing number of farmer’s markets. They also have a thriving trade selling directly to restaurants, and they’re working to get their produce into grocery stores.
Before moving to Canyon Falls about two years ago, Heather and Greg Marsh lived in the Middle East for nearly a decade for Greg’s job in the energy industry.
They loved the adventure, but living in the hot, arid climates of Qatar and Oman made it hard to find fresh produce for their family, which includes three young children.
With Greg having a little experience in indoor agriculture, they decided to try growing a vertical garden on one of their balconies. The trial was a success, and it planted the seed for what would become a thriving small business once the family returned to North Texas.
While they were still overseas and perfecting their vertical growing techniques, the Marshes met Tennessee entrepreneur Bill Job, who Heather describes as a “tinkerer” and “jack of all trades.”
Bill had already started Boterna in Tennessee, developing its equipment and unique growing method. At the age of 75, he was looking for some younger partners to grow and continue the business. Heather and Greg loved the idea so much they agreed to become co-owners. They moved the company to Texas and Heather took on the role of Chief Operating Officer.
Boterna’s 10,000-square-foot facility has 6,000 square feet of growing space, with more than 5,000 10-foot-high towers housing more than 65,000 plants, all grown without pesticides.
At full capacity, Boterna can produce 2,000 heads of lettuce a day, along with herbs, green onions and other greens. The company is currently producing at about 50 percent capacity as it works to increase its distribution through grocery stores, restaurants and other channels.
Boterna has a 10-day growing cycle, whereas traditional in-ground leafy greens take about 30 days to reach harvest stage.
Distribution is also quicker. Heather said traditionally farmed produce can take up to two weeks to reach a consumer’s hands after harvest, especially if it’s out of season in the local area.
“Fresh greens and veggies taste so much better, and they are full of nutrients,” Heather said. “When plants are cut from the root source, they start consuming the nutrients in their leaves, so the sooner you eat them, the healthier they are for you.”
Boterna’s Denton headquarters is a relatively easy 20-minute commute for Heather, which is one of the things she loves about the family’s home in Canyon Falls.
“When we moved back to North Texas, we wanted to live somewhere with quick access to DFW Airport and other parts of the region, from a business standpoint,” she said. “From a family perspective, we love the trails and all the natural open space. We’re in the middle of everything, yet we feel very grounded.”
Ranging in age from 8 to 11 years old, the Marshes’ children love to ride their bikes and scooters along the trails, and they spend a lot of time at the swimming pools during the summer. The youngest two just finished their first year at Argyle South Elementary, located onsite in Canyon Falls.
As a grower and mom, Heather has some advice for parents trying to get kids to eat veggies. “Try to make it fun and give them some choice and control to pick their favorite veggies. We started having Salad Sundays a few years ago, with a salad bar format that lets the kids pick their favorites and try new veggies.”
As for the future, the Marshes envision expanding Boterna’s vertical farming model to multiple countries, bringing fresh produce and job opportunities with fair pay and good working conditions to people around the world. They have already embraced that vision in Texas by hiring many refugees as employees. Among their small staff of 10 are workers from Afghanistan, the Congo, El Salvador and the United States.
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