Midd Alum Simplifies Gardening for Urbanites

By Emilie Munson

Less than five miles from the College, one company is working to transport the benefits of Vermont agriculture to urban millennials across the United States.

A few years ago, Cam MacKugler ’09 was housesitting at a dairy farm in Middlebury when he had an epiphany. As he pulled weeds from the fertile soil, the former architecture major asked himself how he could simplify gardening for people who have no money, no time and no space. A few minutes later, he had sketched his first Seedsheet.

Today, MacKugler is the Founder and CEO of Cloudfarm, a company focused on designing products that allow anyone to experience the boon of a homegrown harvest. Cloudfarm’s first product is the Seedsheet, a woven polypropylene cloth interspersed with seedpods, perfectly spaced to ensure that a healthy garden will grow. The cloth separating the seedpods means that no weeding is necessary; the cloth only needs to be placed on top of soil and watered occasionally.

Seedsheet’s website describes the product as an “agricultural paint by numbers.”

“We are basically 3-D printing a garden and shipping it to you,” said MacKugler.

Handmade in Vermont and containing non-GMO Vermont seeds and soil, Seedsheets wear the tagline ‘Made in Vermont, proudly.’

So far, Cloudfarm and its unique Seedsheet have had impressive success. The company was launched on Kickstarter in November 2014 and in one month, Cloudfarm raised $30,664 from donations, a remarkable number considering that most Kickstarter cam- paigns raise less than $10,000. Investors, many of them local Vermonters in the agricultural sector, contacted MacKugler before the donation period had even closed.

Since producing their first Seedsheet on May 21, 2015, sales have been steadily increasing despite the fact that the true growing season, spring, is still months away. “It’s not a tough sell,” MacKugler explained. A 2014 report by the National Garden Association found that millennials (age 18 to 34) were the fastest growing population segment of food gardeners. Millennials spent an all-time high of $1.2 billion on food gardening in 2013.

Today, Cloudfarm sells 16 different types of Seedsheets — from flower Seedsheets to tea Seedsheets to “green smoothie” Seedsheets containing a variety of leafy greens — in five sizes ranging from a flower box to a large garden.

Recently, the innovative Seedsheet has been grabbing attention from media outlets and retailers alike. The Seedsheet was featured by USA Today, Fast Company, and Vice. In addition, the Home Depot agreed to sell Seedsheets online, and on September 24, Zulily will begin online sales, as well.

In the future, Cloudfarm hopes to expand to sell customizable Seedsheets, allowing consumers to mix-and-match any number of plants to grow, and to sell commercial Seedsheets large enough for a farmer to roll out over his fields.

Regardless of the company’s rapid growth and popularity, Cloudfarm is still committed to keeping its “Plant 1 Pledge 1” program that began during its Kickstarter campaign. “Plant 1 Pledge 1” gives investors an option to donate one Seedsheet to a school. True to its mission of making gardening simple for everyone, Cloudfarm is continuing this program and will feature a donation option on its website in the future.

MacKugler advised students of the College looking to replicate his entrepreneurial success to “use whatever means to prove early stage validation.” He suggested that entrepreneurs show their product to friends and investors for feedback that could be valuable.

“I definitely would be the biggest advocate for the liberal arts degree in the entrepreneurial world because every day you’re transitioning from building sales Excel files to coming up with a logo design,” he said.

MacKugler spoke to a Middview trip last weekend at the Cloudfarm offices, giving them similar advice. This summer, he hosted nine summer interns, including five Middlebury students: Caroline Guiot ’16, Katherine Chamberlain ’16, Rob Cone ’17, Mary Sackbauer ’15 and Dylan McGarthwaite ’15.

Guiot and Chamberlain agreed that interning at Cloudfarm taught them many lessons about entrepreneurship and founding a start-up.

“Sometimes you just need to start,” said Guiot of what she learned from interning at Cloudfarm. “Your idea or vision might not be perfected but you can be stuck in the design stage forever and you can learn a lot about just by starting.”

“I think the biggest take away was that start-ups are a ton of work!” Chamberlain said. “I also learned how rewarding it is to see an idea turn into a legitimate business.”

MacKugler says he is going to continue to provide opportunities for stu- dents of the College to experience en- trepreneurship at Cloudfarm all year round.

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