by Joshua Guess
Six years ago, I serendipitously started a microgreens business to fund my aquaponics interest, which was originally inspired by the documentary FRESH. It was the beginning of a paradigm shift for me about food production, delivery and customer choice. Chefs were really interested in the microgreens, and the business started to grow very slowly, as I had no startup capital. In the middle of this, I was married and my wife joined me in the business. We then discovered the immense nutrient density of these little plants and our own passion to produce for a wider range of customers; thus the beginning of our journey at the farmers’ markets.
Our first year was strongly focused on educating customers about microgreens and how they could be incorporated into different meals. We talked about how microgreens are a good way to get greens to your kids—if they only eat a little bit of greens, they should be the most nutritious. We relayed information from a 2012 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that found the nutrient density of microgreens to be four to 40 times more than their mature counterpart. We stressed the quality of the resources that we use to grow the plants. We believe the health of the plant is connected to the health of the soil in which it was grown. Healthy soil means healthier, tastier greens.
The most enjoyable part of this journey has been the relationships with our customers. It is an honor to work with the chefs in Oklahoma City that are changing the restaurant culture by supporting local farmers. Our customers at the farmers’ markets that are choosing to buy food that is nourishing to them and the community also inspire us. We have a loyal following at the OSU OKC market and the Edmond Farmers’ Market. I especially find joy introducing new customers to microgreens and finding a variety they love through the samples we offer.
If people were demanding fresh, local, transparent and ethical food, the farmers would come. As long as people are content trusting deceptive packaging and labels, we are always going to have the problems we currently have. Shopping with a local farmer allows people the chance to ask hard questions. A transparent farmer will extend an invitation to visit their farms; if they don’t want visitors, that should be a red flag. We want people to be aware of the impact that their food choices make on the environment, on their bodies and on their community.
We were recently having a conversation with a friend about the food system and the changes we desire. We described an ideal system where American households spent more on food and less on entertainment; the average age of farmers was closer to 30 than over 60, like it is now; and our food system was life giving at every stage of production. He exclaimed, “For what you’re describing to happen, everyone would have to change!”