“At first, we were just going to grow produce to sell at local farmers’ markets, like tomatoes and zucchini,” begins John Voltolini, owner of Three Vs Farms. “But then, when I went to my local Giant Eagle in Grandview to ask for extra boxes to transport our produce, the manager asked what I needed the boxes for. I told him and he said, ‘why not sell to us?’ I sold him everything.”
The Grandview Giant Eagle reopened as a Market District and today Three Vs plants 15 acres just for our local Columbus Market District stores. “The managers at Market District have been hugely supportive,” says John. “They like that we bring our produce right to the store, no warehouse or wholesaler in-between. Sometimes we deliver so fresh that the squash are still warm from the sun when it gets to your stores. Currently, we deliver two times a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, but this year we are growing sweet corn, so I imagine we will be popping in on a more frequent basis. It’s not just our crops, but the trust that grows every year.”
Speaking of growth, John also helped establish a pumpkin cooperative, in which farms with smaller acreage work together growing pumpkins and then harvest to meet demand. “It’s called the Southern Ohio Growers Cooperative and right now it consists of eight farms,” says John. “Because we are all in southern Ohio, we get our crops about one to two weeks earlier than northern farms, so we can get an edge on the market. Our pumpkins should be in-store by Labor Day to start the fall season.”
Born and raised in Columbus, John still lives there raising his son and daughter. The farm in Circleville, 30 miles away, is home to his father, mother and brother Mathew. “We support both areas, a 30 mile or more range, from raising money for the Grandview High School baseball team to donating produce to the local food bank in Circleville,” says John.
John still works full time as a lawyer, with his father and brother helping out at the farm during the summer. Together they pay close attention to their plots. “Every year we get better about knowing how to grow. Most recently, we got hives and a bee farmer to help with germination. We make sure we get good-quality seed. We lay raised plastic beds for the crops to protect them from weeds, irrigate from beneath, keep the soil moist and warm, and the vegetables clean.”
As mentioned, John is expanding every year and hopes eventually to make it a full-time endeavor, but it can be scary. “In May, we had 86,000 plants come up from seed,” he recalls, “and then, a night when it went down to 32°F for about an hour. We only lost a few plants at the bottom of the hill; you do everything you can, but you never know.”
Look for Three Vs heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, sweet corn, eggplant, cantaloupe, kale and yes, pumpkins, in our Columbus stores!