Reduce, Reuse and Recycle on the Farm!

We try to be as sustainable as we can with our farm operations. We reuse trays, compost, and avoid using plastic when possible. The farming industry has become overrun with plastic products, and we’re trying our hardest not to add to that problem.

We use plastic trays for our microgreen planting, but re-use them as many times as possible and make sure they are recycled when they are broken beyond repair. We reuse all seed starting and propagation containers. We choose to mulch with wood chips and not landscape fabric. We have a long lasting plastic greenhouse covering that should last much longer than the standard. It’s safe to say that without plastic we wouldn’t be doing the same stuff we’re doing now. But we’re aware of our use and make it non negotiable that all plastics be recycled and have minimal impact to the environment as possible.

Far and away our largest use of plastics is our plastic containers for our microgreens. We did extensive research on packaging and found that plastic clamshells are the best product for our greens to maximize shelf life and product freshness. The containers we use are BPA-free, 100% recyclable and made from a minimum of 30% post consumer recycled product. We pay a little more for this quality product, but it’s way too important to skip on!

One way we are able to lower our environmental impact is to offer bulk and custom orders directly off the farm. If you have a container that you would like to use, we can fill it up and avoid the plastic all together! If the small containers are just not enough and you find yourself buying multiple containers at a time, we can help there too. We offer small, medium and large clamshell packages that can reduce the number of plastic containers purchased at a given time. Additionally, if you purchase directly off the farm we can re-use your containers that you clean before refilling! Plus, we will take back any used containers that are in good shape. We won’t re-package greens, but we will use old containers to plant our live trays that are offered in the farmers market season!

We are always trying to minimize our impact and aim to provide a quality, consistent product. If you want to shift to bulk orders directly, please contact us today! And of course, we also ask that you play your part and make sure that our used packages make it into the recycling or be re-purposed!

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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Organic is the only way!

Our house is an organic only type of household.  We only purchase conventional fruit or veggies when there are no other options, which is very infrequent these days.  It’s very important to us that we don’t consume GMOs or Pesticides.  It’s also important to consume sustainably sourced products.   We think of this as the base of our attempt to have a healthy lifestyle.  All of these beliefs are also being put into practice on our growing market garden.

Today there are many books, ideas and styles of agriculture.  We fit into the small scale side of things for sure.  We utilize vertical growing in our micro green production to maximize our year round growing space.   Our micro green soil is from a local Colorado company, Paonia Soil Company.  We also compost all of our micro green waste, which goes directly back into the farm.   This composted potting soil is currently filling our raised beds that are being constructed this summer and fall.  Our seed source is always Non-GMO and it is organic whenever possible.  Due to the shear amount of seed that we require, we always use Non-GMO and search out to purchase Organic.

All of our outdoor and greenhouse gardening uses organic processes as well.   We are following a no-dig format and because were blessed with a host of free large dimensional lumber from a friend, we are constructing wood formed raised beds.   We are then filling the new constructed raised beds with a mix of compost and top soil.   We are using the compost that is coming out of our micro green operation that is supplemented with food scrap from our home kitchen.  We will then supplement with some additional finished compost from our local garden center to make the beds nice and rich.  Next season will be our first full season of our outdoor garden space so we are excited to watch as this area of our farm grow over the years!

Overall organic is the best when you’re purchasing food and other products.  The reality is there are a few areas that lends little to no options to stay the organic line.  When we are forced with choosing a conventional product we will check out the company, insure it is non-gmo, and weigh the nutritional value that is received from that particular item.  For instance, if we want to eat a papaya every once in a while, we have to go with conventional due to our remote Colorado location.  We choose to do this every once in a while when they are in season and we do it as a treat, very sparingly.   We never choose to purchase conventional veggies like carrots, onions, broccoli or cauliflower as they are almost always available in organic form, or will be restocked shortly.

So that’s our long and short about organic in our household, but more importantly how our farm operates.  Our outgoing produce is not certified but always grown organically!

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How I became “The Sprout Guy”

Truth be told, I never intended to be “The Spout Guy”.  I started our small farm with the intentions of growing lots of fully grown veggies for the markets and restaurants.   Maybe we would have a CSA.  That is still the goal, but we decided to start with a fully scalable micro green operation while we grew our farm and completed our greenhouse.

Microgreens are great because they can be grown indoors, year round, and have a weekly harvest for many varieties.  This is great for cash flow and provides us the capability to grow year round at 7500′.  We are also able to grow vertically which is really maximizing our space.  But the biggest positive attribute of all is that I can work early and late hours while the rest of the family sleeps.  As a stay at home dad, this is a huge deal!  I typically get up around 5am and work until 8 when I take over kiddo duties.  Aspen and Sage ride along for deliveries and they love it!  All this adds us to a winning combo for our family.

We converted our single car garage into a micro green nursery and processing center.  We started with 1 light.  Then added 4 more.   Then added 4 more.  Then we built our current setup that has a 75 tray capacity capable of growing 50-70 pounds of greens per week, year round.  We deliver to some local restaurants, health food stores, and run a farmers market stand.

While the micro greens are going on, the extra day time is used to expand our outdoor garden plots and tend to our greenhouse containing basil, peppers and tomatoes.  Plenty of learning going on outside, so I am thankful that I was able to focus on dialing in the micros before we add on too much outdoor space!

Microgreens are allowing our farm to grow organically into the homestead that we envision.  The best part of all is that the flavors are off the chart and the nutrition is a life changer.   Our family eats them at every meal so we can vouch for their benefits!  Its crazy to see how these little greens can impact so much!

Now when people come up and say “Hey, You’re the sprout guy” I smile and think about all the positivity these micro greens are bringing our family, and our community!

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.