Category Archives: McCardell Farms Thoughts

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.

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!”