Just curious about how many growers here sell sprouts or microgreens? Is there much of a market for these items in your area? Any suggestions on how to go about growing or selling them?
This may seem strange, but a friend of mine raises and rescues parrots and was looking for a place to get them for her birds. Of course, I suggested she just try to grow her own, but prehaps a pet store or were they sell birds only would be a market for you. People pay good money to take care of their pets, and parrot food is pretty pricey. I have two and mine love my garden as much as we do!!
Hmm, interesting idea. Thanks!
I started doing sprouts last fall to try and get some extra income coming in over the winter. I grow clover (similar to alfalfa), popcorn shoots, pea shoots, buckwheat lettuce and sunflower. In regards to the microgreens - easiest was arugula but I have also done bull's blood beet, spinach and chervil. I found the last three time consuming as the seed didn't pop off very easily.
I was selling to an independent produce store but he has since sold to a chain which I can't supply to. I sell to a caterer who uses the clover sprouts in her sandwiches and to a chef who uses them to spruce up his salads in the winter months.
If you are interested I can let you know how I did the set up of it because I didn't want to fork out alot of money and not be able to sell them so I did the setup - I think quite economical.
The pet store is an interesting idea!
I'd love to hear about your set up, it's something I had considered as an off season crop as well. Thank you for offering to share!
Also very interested in your set up as well herb gardener- great info!
Well here goes. For the clover I purchased two Bioset Kitchen Salad Garden (I actually got my last one at a health food store - thereby saving shipping). It is on the go constantly.
In regards to the sprouts - you first need to soak them overnight - I use pyrex 9x13 pans. Then they have to be rinsed two to three times a day until they start to root. This is were I had trouble coming up with something that was reusable and economical but then the lightbulb went on. I put a black mesh seedling tray inside a solid tray, line the mesh tray with a cotton cloth (tea towel)(can be washed and bleach and reused. When you need to rinse simply lift out the mesh tray, rinse, dray and put back into the solid tray. They also need to be in darkness so I covered a clear dome lid with black plastic. The sunflower sprouts can go right ontop of #4 mix (I use two solid black trays) and covered with about 3 rows of paper towels kept moist until they start to sprout (skip the rinsing method). In regards to the pea shoots, if you want yellow popcorn shoots leave them covered in darkness, green popcorn shoots let open to the light. I covered a large plastic dome with black plastic. I hope I make sense!! I then just use my black plastic trays and #4 mix (that is what costs the most). When the sprouts are ready for harvest just clip, throw the #4 into the compost, wash and bleach the trays and they are ready to use again and again.
Now in regards to the set up - I bought two metal shelving units (the chrome ones you see everywhere) one has five shelves and the other four (three trays fit on each shelf perfectly). Everything was growing fine in the summer close to the window and the sunshine then winter came and I couldn't figure out why nothing was greening up-another lightbulb moment - lights. We had 2ft florescents that my husband added a plug to and hooked them unto the underside of each shelf, put them on timers and we were back in business. Also hooked up a small fan to keep the air circulating so mould doesn't set in.
The microgreens are pretty expensive to do because of the cost of the seed - everytime you use so much to cover the tray and get a decent crop. I have just narrowed it down to arugula and buckwheat lettuce. Neither of these seeds should be soaked because they just turn to glue. Just sprinkle onto of the #4 mix and keep moist by misting regularly.
On more thing - shop very carefully for your sprouts. My regular supplier was out of popcorn shoots so I started sourcing elsewhere - I was going to cost me almost $75.00 more to buy somewhere else so I just put those shoots on hold until I could get more from him. Also buy in bulk and keep them in your freezer.
It is a full time venture because you no sooner get one tray under the lights and it is time to start the next set but it has really increased our income over the winter months.
Hope you understand all this, if not ask away.
I would think if you put the microgreens into those little plastic clamshells, it could be a nice sell to the pet stores. Most all have a refridgerated area. Wait!! maybe I'll give it a go. LOL
When I sold by sprouts etc to the produce store I sold them in clamshells. Great idea for the pet store because you can put your label on the top and get your name out there.
I might suggest you put some paper towel in the bottom to absorb the moisture and they last longer.
The clover and pea shoots have the longest shelf life.
Hey gardener1908 let us know how you make out if you decide to give it a go.
herbgardener - what kind of shelf life do you get?
When I was selling to the produce store, the clover & pea shoots I think last a week possibly a week and half. The sunflower must be really dry and you may get it to last a week. The paper towels helped alot.
I sell clover sprouts every week to a caterer and I think she is Ok with them for that period of time if she doesn't use them all.
The buckwheat lettuce and popcorn shoot don't last that long maybe three to four days.
Hope that helps.
I found a web site - called "Sproutpeople" that sells sprouting seeds for parrots. So that tells me there is a market. I think it will make a good late fall / early winter project. I think I'll start by talking to a few pet stores and parrot shops and see what kind of interest I get. What prices would you charge?
I would also check out Mumm's. I found their prices to be the best.
It's hard to say what I would charge, maybe go into the pet stores and just look around to see if they have any, or phone around. I have only sold to stores for human consumption. Maybe also check around to see if there is anyone selling parrots independently.
Now you have got me wondering!! Keep me posted.
You guys are all lucky in other states. Around here the board of health will shut you down if you're not doing sprouts in an "approved kitchen". Actually the whole state of Indiana. You might want to check and see if you can sell them in your state before you spend any money.
Gardener1908. You really got me thinking about the pet thing. Went on line to find out exactly what parrots eat and then went on to find out people who raise parrots in our province. Came up with a list aviary's and also then thought what about a vet.
Just a thought as there are not alot of independent pet stores around now and the big box one probably would not be able to take your product because you would have to supply to all their stores.
Keep me posted on what you are doing and any thoughts you might have.
herbgardener - will do . I will be busy the next few weeks harvesting and processing. But like I said I think this would be a nice fall/winter project. Most stores , even big boxes can buy some things locally , or maybe a sign on their bulletion board. My vets office also has a board where you can post things. Some vets specilize in birds, that would be a good prospect. Please keep me posted from your end too! Good Luck.
herbgardener - talked to my friend who does the rehab thing. She also said they are good for turtles, lizards and snakes (yikes!) So I do think the pet market could be a lucrative market. She said most people who have exotic pets are more willing to spend money, when you pay $2500.00 for a parrot you want to keep them healthy. Plus they live a long time, some to 60 yrs.
I grow microgreens only for insects. I soak low quality sunflower seeds (Chirp brand bird seed) in 10% household bleach solution for 8-9 hours before sowing them onto potting soil. I grow microgreens for insects, and have found in three trials that microgreen sunflower seeds soaked in 10% bleach grow thicker stems, sprout more often, and develop adult leaves faster than water only, 5% and 30% concentrations, though 5% bleach is a close second (5% bleach soak sprouted 6/12 in low density planting, while 10% bleach sprouted 5/12.) But, I keep my sprouts exposed to light for their entire sprouting, which makes them less palatable for people, and may affect growth rates. Selling microgreens to schools who raise butterflies or other insects for class experiments has potential.