Another growing entrepreneurial business is now operating out of the Food Enterprise Center owned and managed by the Vernon Economic Development Association. Shade Haven, founded in 2012 out of a dairy farmer’s vision, moved into our center at 1201 N. Main St. in Viroqua in August. Five years ago, Coon Valley farmer and heavy equipment inventor Vince Hundt teamed with Guthrie Knapp and Peter Bergquist, area college graduates in architectural studies and civil engineering, to provide a solution to heat stress in livestock.
Their local company designs and manufactures portable shade structures that can be easily set up and moved to throw shade where and when it’s needed. Shade Haven’s structure has a 40-foot-wide shade cloth that provides 1,200 square feet of shaded area and is being used in applications ranging from rotational grazing systems to trade shows and music festivals. Shade Havens are currently used in 23 states, including Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Hawaii, and countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. The company has approximately 10,000 square feet of production space and four other employees at its new Food Enterprise Center location.
Besides shading livestock, Shade Havens can be used as portable custom shelters at sports tournaments, outdoor parties and roadside attractions, as well as in field work and at construction or industrial sites.
“We have several local farms with our shade structures,” said Shade Haven CEO Peter Bergquist, “and we have been at the Yum Yum Fest in Madison, Larry Fest in La Farge, and have attended the local farmers market and other local music events.” He added, “Our business is primarily in agricultural products, but we are branching out in the event and equipment rental business.”
New CHS staff
Jeanette Burlingame of Cashton is now coordinating the incoming and outgoing produce of Community Hunger Solutions (CHS) as its new warehouse coordinator. CHS is a local foods recovery project operating under the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA) out of the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua. Through CHS, excess quality produce procured from and donated by area farms is gathered and sorted each week at the Food Enterprise Center and then distributed to area food pantries and meal sites, plus the newest location at Peace Lutheran Church in Readstown. To date, more than 800,000 pounds of food have been delivered to these locations since CHS began in 2013.
“The idea of working with food and helping people, to me, seemed like the ultimate combination,” Jeanette said. “I have a passion for food and different ways of using and preserving it. I also came from a poor working class background where fresh food wasn’t always a sure thing. I understand what it’s like to be poor and all the stereotypes associated with poverty, so being able to work with folks to help get them the healthy, delicious food that everyone deserves is very rewarding.”
Jeanette’s love of food began in high school when she worked in the food service industry. Later she worked full time at a warehouse that imports and manufactures parts for industrial applications. “That’s where I got my experience with forklifts and other large warehouse equipment, as well as getting to see some of the successes and challenges of a large importer of goods,” she explained.
In her new role as CHS warehouse coordinator, Jeanette is also using her organizational skills to upgrade CHS’ data collection, keeping a running inventory and tracking trends. As she put it, working for CHS gives her “the opportunity to use all of my brain power to organize, coordinate, and to be a part of something much bigger than me, to help nurture it.”
Making someone’s life better is a driving force in Jeanette’s life, and she’s thankful for all who have built and are involved in CHS, “a community effort that has a real impact every day,” she said. “CHS Director Gary Thompson, VEDA Executive Director Sue Noble, and all of the farmers and pantry organizers and volunteers that we work with are all what make this project possible, and I’m really, really honored to be a part of it.”
For more information about VEDA’s activities, visit our website www.veda-wi.org or make an appointment to visit our office at the Food Enterprise Center.