Farmer’s Market Commentaries

People say the darndest things, and farmer’s market visitors are no exception. It’s highly entertaining to me, as a microgreens seller and as a market vender, to hear the responses from people visiting the market. Here are some comments that stand out from people I’ve offered microgreens samples to from my booth:

– “I really don’t eat anything green.” Alrighty then… not my target audience.

– “You sell weeds?” As long as you leave that ‘s’ at the end of ‘weeds”, I’m happy.

– “That tastes like earth.” At least they didn’t say it tastes like dirt!

– “I like them but my husband only eats meat.” Microgreens make meat taste even better!

– “Ewwwwwwww!” Again, apparently not my target customer. hahahaha!

I bet my neighbors at the market have heard it all over the years. I’m still new to having a stall, so we’ll see what comes up as time goes by.

Growing Microgreens: A Daily Practice

Microgreens mature on a 10-day cycle, so unlike an apple or a carrot, they’re quick to harvest. What microgreens growers run into is the fact that these little plants are delicate and high maintenance. They also can’t be stored for the next market, unlike those apples and carrots.

At McCardell Farms, we harvest the day of the farmer’s market or delivery, and we’ve never kept leftover harvested product to sell the next day or thereafter. So when a bag doesn’t sell at market, it’s time to find a place for them – a friend, my refrigerator, a neighbor, a donation location. I’ve heard of microgreens sellers, even here in San Luis Obispo County, who sell microgreens at market harvested by order. In other words, the 10″x20″ tray of microgreens growing in soil is displayed under a sneeze guard and customers request an amount that is cut for them right there. I’d like to ask that seller how she prevents the microgreens from overheating and dying at the market, since that’s a risk when you take them out of the greenhouse.

Day one of the microgreens’ lifecycle is soaking for the larger seeds like radish, pea and sunflower. Smaller seeds like arugula and our special microgreens mix get planted immediately without being soaked overnight in a large mason jar. Sowing seeds is one of the more time-consuming parts of growing microgreens, maybe second to harvesting.

Larger seeds, when they’re sown, get stacked under bricks. That’s a method I learned from a workshop and it has worked really well for me. Under weight, the greens work to grow and that makes them thick and strong. After 3 days they’re released and allowed to grow tall and green. It’s a beautiful process!

Every day they’re watered by hand. I haven’t set up an automatic mister because I want to monitor their growth and their overall status. So when it’s hot, I’ll go in the greenhouse twice to mist if necessary.

Every morning I open the door screen and make sure the fan system is set to go on. I check the greens and take a look at the weather for the day. Every evening, I close the door window screen and shut down the fan if necessary. This doesn’t take long, but it’s essential.

After 10 days, microgreens are ready to be harvested for the farmer’s market or pickup. Harvesting is a long process but it’s become more and more speedy with experience, like everything.

Because they’re on a 10-day cycle, I always have at least 2, sometimes 3, sets of trays in the greenhouse at different stages of maturity.

I’ve learned a number of shortcuts even in the 6 months I’ve been growing microgreens, so the system is getting easier and easier. My favorite part of growing microgreens? Sampling them to make sure they taste delicious!

Parenting and Co-Working

Last Saturday, I was busy harvesting microgreens and tending to plants before heading to the Arroyo Grande farmer’s market. I started feeling intense timing pressure to get it all done. I could feel the stress building up in my head, and I realized suddenly that I couldn’t possibly do it all – I couldn’t be expected to handle all this before the market. I needed my CEO, 11-year-old Colin, to help – and fast.

Before I thought at all about the impact on him, I called to him in the house and frustratedly yelled, “Colin, I need your help on Saturday mornings before you see your friends, before you get on the computer – I need help to make this business happen.” I was annoyed – I wanted him to read my mind before I even asked. Truth be told, I was feeling sorry for myself. Unsupported and abandoned. And I let that out on him.

He did jump when I yelled to him, and he was immediately helping prepare for market. I could relax on the market timing, but then I shifted to feeling uncomfortable about how I had handled it.

Trouble is, that’s not how we talk with each other. We’re not yellers and not quick to anger, and we like to talk with each other respectfully. Later I told Colin, “hey I think next time I’ll talk with you about my need for help the night before. I’ll give you more of a heads up.”

He smiled and said that would work for him. I love feeling connected with Colin, but balancing parenting and projects and business is not always perfect. The truth is, I’m very business-focused and he’s focused on being a kid and dipping his toes into the microgreens business when it feels good.

Honestly, Colin is a lot like many adult CEOs I’ve met. They’d rather play golf or go to cocktail parties than waste away in the boardroom. Colin’s CEO status is more of a helicopter view, but he does touch down once in a while to help out in the trenches. I just want to keep respecting him like I would an adult CEO, and I have to trust that my kids will keep returning that respect.

Drink Me: The McCardell Concoction

I love the feeling of being hydrated, but sometimes water needs something – or a whole list of somethings. Here is my absolute favorite concoction:

I use a 1-quart Mason jar for my glass.

Start with 2 cups water and add:

1/2 tsp turmeric*

1 Tbs honey (locally produced, raw)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper if you like heat (or more, as desired)

1 cup store bought or homemade Kombucha (RECIPE) or homemade Ginger Soda (RECIPE). Kombucha or Ginger Soda add a lovely fizz to your drink, and if you let it ferment a bit, it’ll give you a nice buzz (if you’re into that). 

Using a Mason jar makes this project very easy to shake up! Just throw a lid on first.

Add ice! This is going to make your hot summer so cool and healthy.

What’s your favorite refreshing drink recipe? Email me and let me know or post it on our Facebook page!

*I usually put a full teaspoon of turmeric, and people tell me my drink tastes like a curry. So you decide if you want to add more than 1/2 teaspoon. Turmeric has amazing health benefits that you might want to check out, including (among many other things) working as well as Ibuprofen.


Saturday Pickup May 28

The Arroyo Grande Strawberry Festival is coming up on Saturday, May 28, so the farmers’ market is cancelled that day. If you’d like to have your weekly dose of microgreens, wheatgrass or lentil sprouts, please don’t hesitate to come by our micro urban farm!

Saturday, May 28
12:00noon – 2:30 (normal market hours:)
1785 Farroll Road
Grover Beach

No need to call – I’ll be here. (Or call if you’d like to come by during a different hour.)

I can show you the greenhouse and tour you around the property. We have three different small-space gardening methods on display: vertical container gardens, Tower Gardens and straw bale gardening.

I look forward to seeing you!

Don’t Forget About Sprouts

We love our microgreens – baby plants grown in soil – but we also enjoy sprouting grains and beans in water in our kitchen.

Sprouted Lentils McCardell Farms Grover Beach
Sprouted lentils taste incredible on a salad! Raw, of course.

Here are some helpful tips about sprouting:

– You really don’t need to buy a fancy sprouting tray system. Just use mason jars!

– Determine the right lid for your mason jar. For small grains, like amaranth and quinoa, I actually recommend you fork out some cash for lids with very small holes like this one.

– But for larger grains and beans, like garbanzos, rice, wheatgrass, don’t buy a strainer screen. We went to the hardware store and bought $5 worth of screen (by the foot), cut out circles and fit them in our mason jar lids. I still have tons of screen left for future use. Cheap and works really well!

To learn how to sprout grains, seeds and beans, learn from the experts at Sprout People!

PH Levels

One of the many checks we do around here at McCardell Farms is the ph levels of our soil and water. We want our precious microgreens to thrive in the right material, and when it comes to ph levels, they love around 6.0.

It might sound very science-y but it’s really easy – just mix, shake and compare colors to see whether your plants are going to say “ahhhh” or say “yikes!”

Tower Gardens on the Central Coast

Tower Garden McCardell Farms Grover Beach Arroyo Grande

The McCardell Family have added Tower Gardens to their line of products for sale from their farm. After using Tower Gardens for over four years, we decided our passion for these incredible products is worth talking to the world about!

We own four Tower Gardens and we’ve been enjoying eating lettuce, kale, tomatoes and herbs daily. My children love picking our dinner salad! Features of the systems include…

Space Saving:
Tower Gardens are perfect for households that don’t have time or space for traditional soil gardening. Busy people with small back yards love Tower Gardens because they’re easy to maintain, provide lots of produce, and take up space UPWARD instead of ACROSS property.

Environmentally Friendly:
Tower Gardens use as much as 90% less water than traditional soil gardening, they don’t require pesticides, and they’re weed-free. Also, the maintenance on our towers is so low.

Visit the McCardell Family Tower Garden site to find out more about pricing and products available.

Wheatgrass Drink Recipe

You don’t need a special wheatgrass juicer to enjoy the healthy benefits of wheatgrass juice! If you have a Vitamix or other powerful blender for smoothies, soups, etc., you’re in good shape.

abundant handful of wheatgrass
2 cups water
juice of ½ lemon
ice cubes
1 Tbs – or a big dollop – local honey

wheatgrass handful McCardell Farms Grover Beach

Combine wheatgrass and water in Vitamix and blend until leaves are dissolved.
wheatgrass sieve McCardell Farms Grover Beach

Sieve the liquid into a large glass and compost the remnants.
wheatgrass compost McCardell Farms Grover Beach

Add lemon juice, ice cubes and honey and stir.


Microgreens on California's Central Coast