By Maria Surma Manka | Photography by John Linn
Fresh tomatoes in December. A salad from the garden when it’s 20 degrees below zero outside. In northern Minnesota, Jon Friesner made these dreams a reality with GroShed, an agricultural company that provides stand-alone, thermal sheds that can grow vegetables hydroponically year-round.
A father of six children, Friesner is also a lifelong gardener who, with his wife Kate, wanted to give their kids a love of fresh vegetables. But in Minnesota, that’s only possible for a few months each year.
Friesner considered installing an indoor growing facility in their home in Emily, but it took up too much space. So the 2020-2021 member of the Foundation’s Initiators Fellowship program began researching hydroponic growing methods, which don’t require soil; instead, plants rely on nutrient-rich water to grow. No weeding and no herbicides or fungicides needed.
As the owner of a residential construction company, Friesner put his skills to work and built a warm shed for a year-round hydroponic garden.
It worked: The family grew tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and microgreens. As neighbors became more interested in sheds for themselves, Friesner decided to make GroShed a full-time business in 2019.
Today, he’s on a mission to get fresh food into people’s hands any time of year. “When it’s wintertime and 30 below and we get pictures from customers of their fresh salads, that’s what fills my tank,” he said. “Even if they’ve had a GroShed farm for a year or two, customers are still shocked that fresh vegetables are possible year-round. I love that.”
We learned more from Friesner about what’s growing at GroShed.