Small but mighty: Local farms get growing with microgreens

Sep. 14—Foodies like them for their flavor. Gardeners like them for their convenience.

But despite the interest from both parties, microgreens remain one of fresh produce's best kept secrets.

Microgreens, in short, are edible plants with a short harvest time, according to Becky Fitzpatrick, a local farmer who's been growing them on Good Dog Farm in Pemberville since 2019. They're essentially tiny power-houses.

"I typically tell people that microgreens are edible plants, usually vegetables, sometimes flowers and herbs, that harvest between 10 to 14 days after germination. They are up to 40 times higher in nutrients than the full-grown plant would be," Mrs. Fitzpatrick said.

Rick Gaskill, owner of Gaskill Family Farm in Milan, Mich., said microgreens have yet to hit mainstream.

"I think the majority of the population still doesn't know what a microgreen is, so there's room for expansion. Anyone could grow microgreens," he said.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick got into them shortly after she began exploring market gardening, with the intent to sell her vegetables at farmers' markets or small restaurants. Microgreens were recommended to her as a year-round option.

"As the season began to end, I really wanted to continue growing something, and a friend suggested that I try microgreens," she said. "I gave it a try and had success with it."

She quickly narrowed down her focus solely to microgreens, and now regularly grows 25 varieties, which she sells at the farmers' markets in Toledo, Perrysburg, and Bowling Green. Her yield includes sunflower shoots, radish, cilantro, broccoli, basil, and several types of cabbage.

The opportunities in growing microgreens are vast. Mrs. Fitzpatrick supplies to eight local restaurants, including Souk and Registry Bistro in Toledo, as well as three retail stores: Claudia's Natural Food Market, 3904 Secor Rd., Toledo; Phoenix Earth Food Co-op, 1447 W. Sylvania Ave., Toledo, and Kazmaier's Market, 127 E. Second St., Perrysburg.

"I'm really surprised by all I've been able to do with microgreens. There are different ways to grow them, but most people grow them indoors, which I did. I use racks under LED grow lights," she said.

She said she's already surpassed her expectation with all she can grow by herself.

"I started with one rack, quickly went to two, and I've doubled that twice in the past two years. I never really imagined it would get this big, and there's definitely room to grow," Mrs. Fitzpatrick said.

Mr. Gaskill said he and his wife Valerie first added microgreens to their farming mix last year to create a new stream of income amid the pandemic.

"We are a very diversified farm, and it was another way to add versatility to us and help us come up with a more steady income stream," Mr. Gaskill said.

Since introducing microgreens to their customers, the farmers have received a great response.

"I had a customer tell me that she eats sunflower shoots as a snack at night when she's watching TV," Mr. Gaskill said. "I agree with her. They're good all by themselves."

He said that several customers are amazed by the nutritional impact.

"They're also good for elderly people because they're so nutritious. As the older population ages, they don't eat as much, so they miss many nutrients. Microgreens can be utilized to help them," he said.

As for their offerings, the farm offers microgreen radishes, spicy mustard mix, sunflower shoots, and many other offerings.

Mr. Gaskill said their mixes are among customers' favorites, as their flavor offers the most versatility.

"We have a mix of pea shoots, sunflower shoots, spicy mix or radish mix, and people will buy it to eat strictly as a stand-alone salad or hamburger topping," Mr. Gaskill said.

He recommends that veggie lovers research how to grow microgreens, specifically suggesting as a source.

"There are different ways to grow them. You can use substrate or soil, you know certain microgreens grow better in specific types of growing medium than others. In our case, we use all soil to grow ours and place them under fluorescent lights. Microgreens are fairly easy to grow," Mr. Gaskill said.

The farm currently sells their microgreens on Market Wagon, a home delivery platform that offers produce items from local vendors.

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