It took bad luck in the form of nasty weather to turn Dawn Boileau’s attention toward micro farming, but she hasn’t looked back.
Boileau established Sunrise Gardens in 2003. Since 2007, her produce has been certified organic. Although her business was successful, she had to make major changes when a hail storm wiped out her entire crop.
Losing her traditional outdoor crop made Boileau realize the vulnerability producers face with Alberta’s short growing season and unpredictable weather.
As Boileau said, “Growing our own food is therapeutic, not to mention nutritious.”
In 2008, she discovered micro farming, which allows her to grow highly nutritious plants in a small indoor space. She realized micro farming is good for business, and creates an alternative for would-be gardeners from all walks of life. Boileau emphasized her commitment to establish a successful business and educate the community to micro farm successfully at home.
She’s reached a point where she supplies businesses such as Booster Juice with microgreens, she’s sought after for workshops at events such as Seedy Sunday, and she attends similar events as a vendor and educator.
“It’s not all about the money,” she said, and her generous and informative contributions demonstrate her commitment.
Although micro farming is not meant to replace traditional produce, she lauds the benefits it offers as an alternative and rich supplement.
“[Shoots and microgreens] are nutritionally very dense and super fresh. They allow us to be active in the growing of our food, connecting us with the magic of germination and photosynthesis. Growing our own food encourages us to share our love of plants and food with our friends and family and saves us money,” she said.
Micro farming refers to the production of shoots and microgreens. She defined shoots as “crops that require less light and fewer growing days until harvest (5-14 days).” Meanwhile, she said, “Microgreens require much more light (14 hours per day, double grow lights or very good sun exposure). Microgreens are developed into their second or third true leaf stages and require 14-28 days growth.”
As shoots, plants concentrate their phytonutrients. Ten ounces of broccoli shoots has more nutrients than a head of broccoli. You can’t grow oranges in your living room, but red cabbage shoots yield high concentrations of vitamin C that can be grown in small trays on a bookshelf.
Micro farming has low requirements for soil and light, with minimal attention, but it requires good air flow to prevent mold. If you are away from home on vacation, put them in the refrigerator and they will go dormant.
Boileau recommends starting with wheat grass, pea, or sunflower shoots.
The beautiful thing about micro farming is its simplicity; it offers maximum results for minimal effort and expense. Boileau’s best advice is to “…start small, feel good when you do succeed, and then try more and more.”
Sunrise Gardens is a regular vendor at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market. Check the website below for other locations.
Featured Image: Growing lush microgreens is possible at home. | Tekla Luchenski