Bryan Ernst speaks with the Ripon Common Council, including Ald. Doug Iverson, seen in background.
Bryan Ernst speaks with the Ripon Common Council, including Ald. Doug Iverson, seen in background.

   Ripon’s downtown grocery store has been for sale for some time.

   Soon, it may have a new owner — but the building will be used to grow food, not sell it.

   Ernessi Farms, which first opened in the lower level of the Bluemke’s building downtown, is planning to purchase the Market Fresh building at 111 E. Fond du Lac St. There, it’s expected to greatly expand its ability to grow produce, increase its market share and hire new employees.

   “With this expansion, this will make us the largest vertical farm in the state by far,” said Bryan Ernst, owner and founder of Ernessi Farms. “The only other vertical farms that are getting close to the size by the time we’re done would be found in cities like Chicago, New York and Minneapolis.”

   A closing date has not yet been set for the proposed sale.

   “We’re a little further past the negotiation process right now; we’re finalizing some final details,” Ernst told the Commonwealth Tuesday, noting negotiations have been ongoing for a few months. “I’d like to be able to close by a little after the first of the year, but it’s looking like it should be relatively soon, assuming all things go well between the attorneys.”

   Ernessi Farms grows plants indoors hydroponically. According to its website, “In vertical farming our growing levels are stacked on top of each other in unused urban spaces. With our space saving design and proprietary technology, our vertical farm allows us to grow 80% more produce while using 90% less water.”

   Meanwhile, specifics about what will happen to Market Fresh, such as when it is expected to close, are unclear.

   When called by the Commonwealth Tuesday, owner John Maczuzak declined to comment.

Read the full story in the Nov. 28, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.