Growing and Pricing Microgreens for Market

Microgreens are a classic marketing success story that traces back to 2001 when chef Thomas Keller started serving them at French Laundry in California. Soon thereafter SPIN farmers started growing them as symbols of their artisanal bona fides. While some customers laughed at them – “What are you trying to do, sell me confetti?” –  food-forward eaters adapted them as a status symbol. As the local food movement took root throughout the last 20 years, microgreens became a mainstream crop much in demand by both consumers and chefs.

Some SPIN farmers add $1k+/week to their sales with microgreens operations that require minimal time and investment. Lots has been written about indoor microgreens, but what is not widely known, or practiced yet, is growing them outside. Some SPIN farmers do both indoor and outdoor production, depending on their climates and seasons.

Here’s a look at some of the plusses and minuses of indoor versus outdoor microgreens production:

Indoor growing plusses:

  • easier to achieve consistent product because the environment changes very little
  • supports extended season or year round production
  • not physically demanding

Indoor growing minuses:

  • mold can be a problem due to less clean air flow
  • might require fan and dehumidifier
  • cost of shelving, lights and soilless growing medium
  • extra cost for power: lights and ventilation

Outdoor growing plusses:

  • free light
  • almost zero mold
  • no special gear

Outdoor growing minuses:

  • much more growth fluctuation due to temp, light, and humidity change
  • weather/climate dependent

For many, corn is farming’s signature crop. But not for SPIN farmers. Because of their backyard scale, they can’t afford to tie up their gardens with a low-value crop that can only be sold for a short period of time. If you asked them to design their ideal crop, microgreens would fit the bill. They are among the most quickly harvestable crop in the world (10-14 days.) Having a crop with such a short harvest time means you can ramp up your production in response to market demand very quickly. That’s a great position to be in as a grower. With many crops you have to wait many weeks, if not the next year, to get a harvestable crop.

Microgreens are also versatile. Production can be soil-based and occur outdoors in plots or in containers on parts of a land base that are not otherwise suitable for production, like decks, patios and unused driveways; or they can be grown indoors in a garage or shed. There is no need for expensive specialty structures. Because of their intense flavor and delicate beauty, microgreens are in demand by consumers and chefs, and even many farmers markets aren’t well-supplied with them. Many believe in their health benefits, and at up to $50 per pound, micro greens certainly contribute to a healthy bottom line. To boost yours, start growing microgreens and become known as the source for a different kind of “fast food.”

An indoor microgreens farm can be set up quickly and inexpensively. Find out how to do it here.

Like digging in the dirt? You can start a microgreens operation outside too. Find out how to do it here.

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