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CFSA SAC 2015 microgreen production for year-round harvest


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These slides were presented at the 30th Annual Carolina Farm Stewardship Association by Jillian and Ross Mickens from Open Door Farm . Please do not reproduce without the express consent of the authors. CFSA SAC 2015

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CFSA SAC 2015 microgreen production for year-round harvest

  1. 1. Microgreen Production for Year-round Harvest Jillian and Ross Mickens Open Door Farm Cedar Grove, NC
  2. 2. About us
  3. 3. Where we sell micros ● Majority via Farmers Markets ○ Western Wake Farmers Market ○ Chapel Hill Farmers Market ● Restaurants in Chapel Hill ● Small bit of wholesale
  4. 4. What are microgreens? ● Seedlings of plants that are harvested at at 7 to 20 days after planting ○ Harvested at cotyledon stage ○ Or harvested once first true leaves have appeared ● Crops that make good micros include: ○ Brassicas including Arugula, Asian Greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cress, Kohlrabi, Mustards and Radish ○ Beets and Chard ○ Herbs including Basil, Cilantro, Chervil, Dill, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Scallions, Shiso and Sorrel ○ Amaranth, Carrot, Orach and Purslane
  5. 5. What are shoots? ● Just bigger microgreens ● They are grown the same as microgreens the end product is just larger because of larger seed size ● Crops the make good shoots include: ○ Sunflowers ○ Field Peas ○ Tendril Peas ○ Hard Red Winter Wheat (wheatgrass) ○ Popcorn ○ Nasturtium ● Different nomenclature confusions people, save yourself some trouble and just call them microgreens!
  6. 6. When we started growing micros ● 2012 ● Will Allen, Growing Powers Urban Farm Training ● Needed a crop to make us stand out from the competition ● Needed a crop we could grow year- round
  7. 7. Why microgreens? ● Damn delicious! ● Veggie crack! ● Super food ○ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that microgreens were 4-6 times more nutrient dense than their adult counterparts ○ High in vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and beta-carotene ● Quick turn around and return on investment ● Can be produced year round for year round income $$$
  8. 8. Sprouts vs Microgreens ● MICROGREENS ARE NOT SPOUTS!!! ● Sprouts are grown in sprouting jars or germination chambers without soil ● Sprouts require daily rinsing with water and a moist environment to grow with limited light exposure ● When you eat a sprout you are eating the root, stem, leaves and possibly seed hulls ● When you eat a microgreen you are only eating the stem and leaves ● To us, sprouts having a more watery flavor and spoil quickly ● Microgreens are grown in soil and have plenty air circulation and sunshine
  9. 9. Marketing Microgreens - Don’t grow them if you can’t sell them!● Direct to Consumer Farmers Market ○ Customers at market can be more price sensitive than others ○ We have been able to build a loyal following around our micro products ○ Is there room for more than one micro grower at your market? ● Restaurants/Chefs ○ Quality and reliability are key ○ Can command a better price ○ Often chefs desire more difficult crops ○ Smaller orders, worth your time? ○ Standing orders are the best ● Retail/Wholesale ○ Lowest price point ○ How will your product stand out in a produce section at grocery store? ○ Must be of the highest quality with the best shelf life
  10. 10. Pricing - End product and cost of production? ● How you sell your micros will help determine your pricing ○ Cut, washed and packaged ○ Cut, unwashed and packaged ○ Cut for customers on site at FM ○ Sold as “cut your own” trays (small and large) ● Cut, washed and packed micros go anywhere from $20-$98 a pound ● We charge $5 for 2-2.5 ounces of microgreens which is $32/pound and $4 for 0.25# of shoots which is $16/pound ● We sell a Rainbow Blend and Spicy Blend and Pea and Sunflower Shoots every week ● Pay attention to the cost of production because you can lose big if you can’t sell them! ● Need to know the price of your growing medium, seed, packaging and LABOR
  11. 11. Growing Site: options ● Greenhouse ○ They can be grown in heated or unheated greenhouse ○ Microgreens can tolerate some shade so you can take advantage unused vertical space in your greenhouse ○ Consider how much free space you have in your greenhouse, is there enough space for micros and transplants ● Indoor ○ Growing indoors requires more investment in appropriate infrastructure including racks, lighting and increase electrical needs ○ Need more sophisticated water management systems ● Shipping Container ○ Potential of being mobile ○ Low cost in terms of infrastructure
  12. 12. Growing Site: Greenhouse
  13. 13. Growing Site: Indoors Shoot Boss, Ontario Canada https://instagram. com/p/8MVWMgSqw3/?taken-by=shoot_boss Good Water Farms, New York https://instagram. com/p/uQGRQWgOkl/?taken- by=goodwaterfarms Endless Sun Produce, North Carolina https: // by=endlesssunfarms Food Pedalers Cooperative, Vancouver Canada https://www.facebook. com/localfoodpedalers/photos/a. 244693038956966.55996.104515516308053 /634997119926554/?type=3&theater
  14. 14. Growing Site: Lighting & Temperature ● Light considerations ○ Micros can tolerate some shade so you can use vertical space in your greenhouse that you couldn’t use otherwise ○ Micros growth changes with changes in day length so your planting schedule will need to be adjusted, we see slower growth in mid-October and more speedy growth during the spring and summer months ○ Shade cloth is necessary in the summer to keep greenhouse cool and prevent the micros from being cooked ● Temperature considerations ○ We successfully grow micros year-round with outside temps ranging from 0 to 100 degrees ○ In summer, shade cloth and lots of fans are needed to prevent rotting ○ In winter, air temps need to be maintained at 40 degrees to get proper germination and growth ○ Heated tables would be very helpful in the winter months to speed up growth
  15. 15. Growing Site: Water ● Access ○ Freezeproof waterline for winter time are a must ○ You will want to use potable water that is free from pathogens ○ If you’re using city water, chlorine may be a problem ● Management ○ Drainage is important because you don’t want water pooling in your greenhouse or indoor growing areas ○ You can hand water with a watering wand/water hose or use overhead sprinkler system ○ Watering micros is an art form! The water needs of micro trays are unique and it takes time to get the hang of it ○ Is the pH of the water a problem?
  16. 16. Growing Site: Airflow ● Good air flow is a crucial part of growing good microgreens ● Poor airflow leads to disease and rot issues ● In a greenhouse situation, a combination of natural airflow and additional fans is best ● Microclimates form around the plant canopy in the trays, constant airflow can help avoid depleting the CO2 supply in the plant canopy ● Good air flow can also help with the overall cooling of air temperature in the greenhouse
  17. 17. ● Two schools of thought on the best growing mediums ○ Medium doesn’t need to be nutrient dense ○ Medium does need to be nutrient dense ● Growing medium is one of the largest expenses in growing micros ● Many different options ○ We use a sterile organic soil blend - Sunshine (minimal nutrients) ○ Compost ○ Vermicompost ○ Coir ○ Nutrient added soil blends ○ Try them all to figure out what is best for you! ● You could do post planting fertilization if you wanted but we feel it’s not necessary ○ Stick with non-stinky fertilizers Growing Method: What’s your medium?
  18. 18. Growing Method: Trays Standard 1020 Cell packs 8 - 5X5 in shown here 10 row tray 20 row tray
  19. 19. Growing Method: Seeds ● You’ll need a lot of seed! Seed is a big expense in growing micros ● You can use premixed seed blends or individual varieties ● Must be untreated and tested ● Lot code is important for record keeping ● Presoaking helps some seed germinate better (pea, sunflower, wheatgrass,beets) ● Some seeds also need to be covered after planting to help with germination (pea, sunflower, beets, chard, radish, wheatgrass) ● Best sources for seeds ○ Johnny’s Selected Seeds ○ High Mowings ○ Mountain Valley Seeds ○ Wheatgrass ○ Mumm’s Sprouting Seed
  20. 20. Harvesting ● Prior to harvest ○ Make sure micros are properly hydrated ○ Determine when you want to harvest, cotyledon or first true leaf ○ Best to harvest in the early morning when it’s not too hot ● Harvesting tools ○ Scissors (boo!) ○ Black & Decker Hand Held Grass Shears ○ Farmer’s Friend - Quick Cut Greens Harvester
  21. 21. Post Harvest: Triple-rinse and Dry ● We do a triple rinse to remove seed hulls and soil ● If you have a hydroponic or water table system, washing may not be necessary ● We use a box fan to dry the micros after washing ● Drying them seems to give them a longer shelf life
  22. 22. Harvesting: Packaging and cooling ● We use two different types of deli containers for packaging ● Places to get deli containers: ○ Webstaurant ○ Eco Products ○ Uline ● You can also use plastic bags or takeout boxes ● Any vegetables benefit from proper cooling and handling but none more so than cut greens
  23. 23. Food Safety ● We do not know of any scientific research on microgreens and food safety ● Follow food safety precautions the same as you would for any raw farm product ● Make sure that workers wash their hands before harvesting and packing microgreens ● Water tests should be done to test for the presence of pathogens ● Wash and sanitize microgreens trays after each use, bleach or Sanidate work well but do cause the trays to breakdown over time ● Purchase the best quality seeds possible ● Prevent animals from getting into your greenhouse, frogs and birds are an issue in open greenhouses
  24. 24. Disease/Pest Issues ● Most problem can be short lived because of the quick turnover rate ● Be on the lookout and adjust quickly ● Mind the weather - high humidity leads to rot in the greenhouse ● We get occasional pest damage from flea beetles and aphids
  25. 25. Let’s plant! Step 1. Fill out weekly Microgreen Planting worksheet -Plant every week -Two microgreen blends - Rainbow and Spicy -Always plant pea and sunflower shoots -Will occasionally plant micro herbs and wheatgrass Step 2. Plant trays according to worksheet -Do not plant too densely or thinly -Usually the larger the seed the more you will need per tray -Mountain Valley Seed has suggested seeding rates in their seed catalog
  26. 26. Step 3. Water trays and cover Step 4. Once seeds germinate, remove cover That’s not mold! It’s tiny root hairs on the germinated seedlings
  27. 27. Microgreens will be blanched and yellowed when the cover is removed Within a few days they will begin to turn green and gain more color
  28. 28. Step 5: Harvest, Wash and Pack Step 6: Sell them, make money and/or enjoy the leftovers!
  29. 29. Questions? Favorite Youtube Videos Westhaven Farms - Growing Microgreens: Commercial Microgreens Operation - Curtis Stone w/ Chris Thoreau: Microgreens Correct Seeding Density and Yields: Good Water Farms: Providing Big Organic Nutrition in Small Plants: Made in NC: Microgreens PLEASE FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK! Thanks! Jillian and Ross Mickens