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Microgreens - is it something that can really make money?

 
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I found out about microgreens not so long ago. They seem to be the perfect crop: low start up costs, you can start small, they grow easily, grow inside, sell for a good price. My question is: where is the catch? If this is really that easy, why not everybody is doing it (which would significantly reduce their price)?  It just sounds too ​good to be true.
 
gardener
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It's getting a market, an outlet, aka customers. Plus getting your seeds sourced to sprout out. There is an initial setup sure, then there is keeping it producing to supply your customers...

That's the simple version. I know a lot here where I live that eat them but not enough of a demand to go through the work of setting up the whole thing and operating it.
 
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"Start up costs" are not the same as the cost of raising enough of any food or animal to be able to make enough money to either live on or make it worthwhile to even try. But more importantly, in your question you make several assumptions that aren't necessarily true, "perfect crop, small cost and big profit". What makes a "perfect crop" is raising something you truly love. And with which you can satisfy a real need, including such things as food to eat, food to sell, plants to use as medicine, plants for animal feed, plants for mulch, etc. Growing something at small cost usually means not a whole bunch of profit. It's often a matter of scale. It costs more to sell more. And just because you see something for sale at a high price doesn't mean you can raise the same thing for a similar price.

What I would do if I was starting out again is do a whole lot more research. I have sold acres of organic produce, with thousands of plants, and thousands of eggs, and hundreds gallons of maple syrup & honey to hundreds of families through a Whatley style CSA, regular CSA and Farm Share CSA. I've sold to major grocery stores, several natural foods co-ops, our non-member farm stand, and a Natural Food store. It took time, it took experience, it took lots of work, and it took lots of mistakes. But I loved it, so it all worked out. We've done a bit of what you are suggesting/asking.

So, my suggestion to you is to find the thing you are actually passionate about. Research the heck out of it. Get some experience at a farm or business where they are doing similar to what you want to do. Do a consumer survey to be sure you have a market.  Try to do something better than anyone else can do. Then have at it.
 
Deborah Ori
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Jim Fry wrote:"Start up costs" are not the same as the cost of raising enough of any food or animal to be able to make enough money to either live on or make it worthwhile to even try. But more importantly, in your question you make several assumptions that aren't necessarily true, "perfect crop, small cost and big profit". What makes a "perfect crop" is raising something you truly love. And with which you can satisfy a real need, including such things as food to eat, food to sell, plants to use as medicine, plants for animal feed, plants for mulch, etc. Growing something at small cost usually means not a whole bunch of profit. It's often a matter of scale. It costs more to sell more. And just because you see something for sale at a high price doesn't mean you can raise the same thing for a similar price.

What I would do if I was starting out again is do a whole lot more research. I have sold acres of organic produce, with thousands of plants, and thousands of eggs, and hundreds gallons of maple syrup & honey to hundreds of families through a Whatley style CSA, regular CSA and Farm Share CSA. I've sold to major grocery stores, several natural foods co-ops, our non-member farm stand, and a Natural Food store. It took time, it took experience, it took lots of work, and it took lots of mistakes. But I loved it, so it all worked out. We've done a bit of what you are suggesting/asking.

So, my suggestion to you is to find the thing you are actually passionate about. Research the heck out of it. Get some experience at a farm or business where they are doing similar to what you want to do. Do a consumer survey to be sure you have a market.  Try to do something better than anyone else can do. Then have at it.




Thank you. I agree that those assumptions are not necessarily true. It just seems that most articles on the topic advocate this. They make it look like as the perfect way to make money quickly and easily, while at the same time I haven't found much real discussion about growing microgreens and it raised some suspicion in me. If they are so good, why there is barely any information out there, barely any blog posts or forum comments that discuss how this market looks like in real life?

Now I'm not really trying to make any big money. We are about to buy a house with a garden and I'm mostly looking for ways to grow things that reduce our grocery bills and make some money on the side selling the surplus. But if I could just significantly reduce our grocery bills, I would be already happy. I'm thinking about growing microgreens because it's something I can start small and if it doesn't work out I don't loose much. So I definitely would like to try, I just would like to see the real picture, not just marketing materials from people selling seeds or e-books.
 
pollinator
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For the most part, the market for micro greens is high end fine dining. Having worked at many of these restaurants, micro greens were present on most plates. Chefs like them for the look, and they mound well. Height is always important in presentation. But they don't keep well, so unless you have high end restaurants in your area needing micro greens, you could end up stuck with them. It's something that I would find a customer for first.
 
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I love microgreens, but the seed input required is intense. High quality seed and fine tuned care get pricey over time - I grow them (for myself) when I have an abundance of cheap or bonus seed, but Ive yet to hit the point where I can spare the seed to eat microgreens with every meal.

Goals!
 
Deborah Ori
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Thank you for all the answers. I've heard some people sell them on farmer's markets. I can't imagine how do they manage to keep them fresh all day on the market? I
 
pollinator
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We've got good friends who have grown microgreens on a relatively large scale, and have done pretty well with them.  It took a lot of trial and error working out light, watering, temperature, humidity, etc., and dealing with changes throughout the year.  Quite time intensive.  They're cutting back quite a bit now, I think because they just want to pursue other things.

But really, I think a lot of people are growing microgreens, or at least dabbling in it.  But then they have a hard time selling them, because they've got low production, or the restaurants they've approached have already talked to five other people about microgreens.  That at least seems to be the case around here.
 
Deborah Ori
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Thanks for your input, Wes!
 
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I've been growing microgreens for the past month and had to learn on the job and scale up quickly as we signed up four restaurants in a week. I did a lot of reading before doing anything and Curtis Stone shares a lot of information about growing microgreens on YouTube. Luckily things worked out well but it's not easy. I currently grow 15 trays per week of 7 different seed varieties (sunflower, pea, red and green Japanese radish, dill, beetroot, broccoli, kohlrabi and Swiss chard) and get a 3.5kg yield per week but it takes a lot of time and effort to do it properly. As Wes Hunter said in an earlier post, there are so many variables and so many things that can go wrong but once you work out the right potting mix, seed density, temperature, water, humidity, etc it is pretty satisfying work. I don't regard it as permaculture though - for me it is a temporary income earner while I wait for a piece of land to come through. I live in a small house with a tiny garden so microgreens are ideal right now.
 
gardener
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Any suggestions for perennials that would be great for this?  Ones that you can easily gather piles of seeds from that will sprout into great microgreens?
 
Wes Hunter
pollinator
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Greg Martin wrote:Any suggestions for perennials that would be great for this?  Ones that you can easily gather piles of seeds from that will sprout into great microgreens?



Not perennials, but if you're looking for wild plants with an abundance of seed that make good greens you could do worse than lambsquarters and amaranth/pigweed.
 
Greg Martin
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That does sound promising Wes.  I've been thinking about it since this morning and I'm thinking that perhaps the perennials lovage (celery like) and Carambe cordifolia (cabbage like) might be able to knock up a lot of seeds that could have tasty small leaves on the seedlings, though I haven't tried them....yet.  Now I'm curious and will hopefully try them out next fall.  I'm hoping the young plants won't be as powerfully strong as the full grown plants, otherwise these are terrible choices .
 
pollinator
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I've eaten lovage seedlings, they are fine parsnip seedlings taste good too, I stupidly left a parsnip this year (for the bees) but didn't pull it out before it seeded, I now have thousands of parsnip seedlings growing through my garlic bed.
 
pollinator
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I was pleasantly surprised at loads of Atriplex hortensis rubra or red mountain spinach this spring, as well as the earlier mentioned amaranth, i got a red version. Looks and tastes great. Kept coming for a month and a half at least. I'm going to plant miner's lettuce next spring, because it can handle quite some shade under trees it grows through autumn and mild winters and colonizes big patches. Can´t wait.
 
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MY son does this. He has accounts with upscale local restaurants . We started by growing for ourselves. Our neighbors is a Chef. He suggested we contact some local Head Chefs and bring some samples. Make sure you go to the kitchen door not the front where you will get way laid by Hostesses and Waitress who know nothing about food production. Just go to the kitchen door and ask for the Head Chef. Ask a  reasonable price that matches your local market (not NEW York City Prices!!)... Each week the Chef or Owner will tell you what he wants for next week. We do radish shoots, pea shoots and sunflower shoots. In the Summer we add corn shoots to the mix, but they do take longer to grow.

Good luck.
 
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Don't ever try and compete on price.
Service, quality and something different will always win in the end.
 
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