Building Our Farm with Compost!

We currently harvest anywhere from 50 to 80 trays of microgreens weekly. This leaves us with a lot of compostable goodies! Since we grow our Micros on a standard organic potting soil we have perfect starting materials. The crops are only grown for 10-15 days so they use up hardly any organic material. Additionally, we add organic material back in via the roots of the microgreens. This root material composts very quickly and we are left with slightly better potting soil!

From here we will take the compost and transfer it into raised planter beds that we are installing around our property. Composting is helping our operation grow organically, without large investments in our outdoor garden.

This system is working for us, but we are new to composting. I reached out to Julie, our friend and Owner of Elements Mountain Compost for a few pointers that can help get you some proper black gold. Here are three pointers to keep in mind, especially in a climate like ours here in Salida, Colorado:

  • Incorporate lots of brown materials (leaves, woodchips, dead grass, etc.)
  • Lots of surface area – smaller items will break down faster and mixing/aerating will allow bacteria to enhance decomposition.
  • Lots of moisture – compost tends to dry out in our arid climate and decomposing will stall out without sufficient water.

Over the coming years we will be changing and evolving our composting setup to meet our farm needs. Right now it’s pretty simple and meets our expansion goals. In the future, we plan on diving into worm bins for our kitchen scraps and a more elaborate composting system that will recycle the compost back into the microgreen production.

It is really satisfying to make great soil and every home should start this practice! Start slow and use yard clippings and kitchen scraps. Your houseplants and garden will thank you!

1 Year Anniversary!

It was 1 year ago today that we made our first trip to the farmers market as a vendor!  Today we are reflecting on the evolution of our farm over this first year of operation.

Those first few markets we only had sunflower shoots, pea shoots and radish micro greens that we grew, but we immediately started to build a fanbase.   We started with growing only 4 trays that we would bring to the market and harvest by order.  Our first week we made $40.00, which was just enough to buy our family food for the week.

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Over the next weeks we experimented with other varieties of micro greens.  Some were keepers and many were not.  We quickly found the varieties that work for us.  Thank goodness this went smoothly and fast, because life took off!  Our son Sage was born on September 5th.  We were able to keep the micro greens going through his birth and gave us some extra time to dial in our small scale operation while mom was home on maternity leave.

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By the end of the first market season in October, we were quickly adding restaurants and other clients that we reached out to with free samples.  As all of this was going on, we were just wrapping up construction on our geodesic dome greenhouse and planting the winter crop.

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That winter we successfully grew some broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, kale, chard, spinach and lettuce.  It was a success!  Minimal heat and the dome flourished all season.

That spring we added some outdoor planter beds and used our micro green compost to fill those beds.  Our greenhouse was turned over to peppers and tomatoes for the market and the beds were planted with some veggies for our growing family.

Then, just before the start of the 2017 market we scaled our micro greens up to our current production.  We are now growing 80 trays a week and deliver to a few restaurants, health food stores and individuals in our area.   We are consistently sold out and will be looking to scale up again this winter.

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Just last week we started our trials on oyster mushrooms.  If we can get that figured out we will that to our farm roster this coming year!

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Its been a busy year for sure.  When I look back I am pretty surprised with all of the work that we completed this year.  I am really excited to see what this next year brings!

We could not do this without our outstanding community that has embraced our farm and our niche products!  We are taking this time to reflect not only on our farms success, but the people and families that have helped us get to here!

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How we got here – Our 1st Post

Greetings!  My name is Matt Croghan and I am the owner/operator of a new market garden farm in Poncha Springs, just outside of Salida, CO.  My wife and I moved here 3 years ago with our first born daughter only a few months old.  While on maternity leave at her job, Ann decided to take a new job in Salida so we could raise our children in a small Colorado rural community.   After all we love to ski, hike, bike and camp, and spent nearly every weekend in the mountains as an escape from our hectic jobs in the front range.

So here we are in Salida.  I am now a stay at home dad to an amazing little baby girl.  We are renting for the first time in years.  I have been renovating our homes that we live in for years and operate a small renovation contracting business so we were extereemly eager to get a new place and get started on the next flip.  Little did we know that we were waiting for our dream property to come along.  After months of waiting loan approval and working on our patience, we were finally able to start our house search.  The first house we walked into was a log home on 1.5 acres with a creek and a pond on the property overlooking the collegiate peaks!  It was perfect!  Our offer was accepted and after a crazy closing we moved in!

We got to work immediately and started on the house renovation.  We also started a 4 season dome greenhouse so we could feed our own family.   About halfway though the construction of the dome, I was inspired by Curtis Stone, The Urban Farmer, to take it a step further and start a small market garden.   While 8 months pregnant with our second child, we went to our first farmers market in 2016.  With that I was no longer in the construction industry and I was a farmer.

Fast forward to today and I am a stay at home dad to a 3 year old girl and a 9 month old boy.  We are going into our first full farmers market season and are developing our farm every moment we get.  We have a successful microgreen operation that has started a year round cash flow and got us in the door with some amazing restaurants and grocery stores in our area.  Life is moving at the speed of light!  It hasn’t been easy getting here, but I am starting to see that many paths in my life have been leading to this very spot.