Feel-Good Farming: Vertu Farm

While many businesses in the food industry have been uprooted in recent months, Vertu Farm is more grounded than ever before.

Photography: Jon Chandler

Chris Molander and his family have harnessed the strength of their community and grown so much more than plants from soil.

When was the last time you used the honor system? At a time when there are limits on the amount of paper products you can purchase and fights breaking out over Clorox wipes, it can be hard to imagine that sort of trust between people still exists. As the pandemic gained momentum, local farmer Chris Molander set up a refrigerator with a drop box at his property for contactless grocery pickup for his customers. He enacted the honor system; prices were posted along with his Venmo contact for electronic payment. “It was kind of weird and daunting at first, but the regulars know the drill.”

“I rely a lot on customers that like me – what I do and what I’m about – to get the word out. I’m a terrible salesperson, so my customers are the best representative for me that there could be.”

Molander runs and owns Vertu Farm, located in Savannah, Georgia and is a familiar presence at the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. The farm is completely natural – meaning no fertilizers or pesticides – and uses sustainable methods. “We’re a small operation and so we farm really intentionally. We don’t really use any machinery at all. Occasionally I’ll use a two-wheel tractor but most of the time we do it by hand,” explains Molander. “We just try to keep it really simple – figure out what works best and do more of that.”

Vertu Farm sells to many local businesses, including Brighter Day and Fox and Fig, and dining institutions like Husk and The Grey. So when restaurants began scaling back, Vertu Farm pivoted. They saw their colleagues struggle to meet the growing demand at the farmers’ market and launched an online store for the vendors, allowing customers to place orders online for pickup and delivery. They coordinated a recurring pop-up market at their farm. In addition to hands-on farming, website building and inventory logistics are now part of Molander’s daily life. “It’s been the natural outgrowth of what we’ve always tried to do, which is keep everything super local.”

What started as a grocery honor system has grown into a well-nourished community based on integrity – that is, honest people and pure produce. “I got really lucky moving here,” says Molander, who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in California. “I love pretty much everything about Savannah, the mentality, the people, the architecture and the city. I didn’t target it per say, but I really lucked out.” 

Say “hi” to Chris on Saturdays at the Forsyth Farmers’ Market; shop the Vertu Farm pop-up market on Tuesday mornings and Friday nights, or order online at vertufarm.com. 2500 Tennessee Ave., Savannah, GA, 31404 – 559.917.7986

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