A few months ago I was asked to teach a class about growing microgreens. I had never grown a single tray of microgreens in my life, although admittedly my cabbage and mustard greens have been consumed at a more baby stage than I intended when I planted them. I had learned about the culinary revolution that is microgreens by reading a few articles and books. So naturally, I agreed to teach the class.
From experience, I knew jack-diddly about growing micros when I put this lecture on my calendar. But I did know I was in the process of starting a business that I wanted to become a big part of the local gardening clique. So there’s not better place to start for that than ingratiating myself to the members of Roanoke Community Garden Association! Microgreens go from seed to plate in as quick as 8 days in the right conditions, so I knew I had a few cycles of trials to learn the craft before I’d have to present my findings.
So I ordered some seed and I got to work trialing a handful of different varieties, an array of tray sizes and watering methods. The first round of trials was a miserable failure. I started six trays in early January. Germination rates were poor, and what did sprout died within a few days. Back to the drawing board…
The drawing board in this case, of course, is Google. That’s often the case for me as I try to establish processes and infrastructure in this new urban farming business. After reviewing some materials on micros, I decided errors with lighting were the most likely culprit for my dead trays. I made my corrections and launched another round of trials, and the second go-round was moderately successful. The rewards were delicious for the household. Winter salads definitely level up with the addition of radish shoots.
As I meandered through several more rounds of trials, I started to envision ways this product could fit into my developing business model. There are a few farmers I’ve met locally who sell micros packaged in plastic clamshells to market customers, restaurants and grocery stores. But the plastic waste involved with those products is significant, as is the time spent cutting, washing and drying the greens. I decided my way to separate from the field may be to try selling the greens live, tray and all.
I’m tentatively calling the product Sill Sprouts, as I envision customers stashing them on their windowsills until the greens have been gobbled up. The vibrant display of sprouted green will be eye-catching at my market booth, and it offers the buyer the freshest possible product. They cut the greens as needed until its finished over up to a week, then return the tray to me including the soil for $1 off their next tray. I hope to establish a good flow of recycled trays coming back to me in order to keep the trays out of the landfill.
One thing I’ve learned in this process has to do with the way an entrepreneur is required to think. I was given an opportunity to partner with another organization and expand my sphere of influence. It was up to me to fulfill that responsibility and find a way to make it work to benefit my own business. In the mean time, I’ve moved from greenhorn toward proficient when it comes to growing microgreens. And I’ve developed a new product I think has selling potential from my market booth!
So I’m teaching this class, “Growing Microgreens at Home”, tonight at the West End Freedom First branch in the community room. If you’re reading this and you’re local to Roanoke, come join us at 6:00pm!