On Fridays at the Fulton Street Farmers Market, a tiny giant looms among June’s huge heads of lettuce and full flats of Michigan strawberries: 1st Microgreenery Fresh Living Microgreens. According to Chris Huntoon, owner of this one-man, organic micro-farm, food is medicine and microgreens pack a whole lot of real food power and flavor into each tiny bite.
“If you’re a farmer and one seed yields one head of broccoli, I take that same seed and only let it grow until it gets its first set of leaves. It has all the nutrition that the seed was going to push into the adult plant,” he says. “The micro greenery is like a bakery. Because I plant seeds every day, new crops are fresh and ready in the morning each day. Every day they are fresh.”
1st Microgreenery’s customers include families looking for ways to eat more vegetables, elders seeking to boost their health, and athletes striving to improve performance. Huntoon began growing arugula microgreens at the request of a bicycle racer who wanted to better oxygenate his muscles. Micro-grown radish, broccoli, cilantro, sunflower, and wheatgrass are also on the menu. Depending on the crop, it takes from seven to 20 days from planting the seeds to harvesting the microgreens.
“You can do all kinds of stuff with them. Some juice them, some add them to baby food, some just eat them out of the cup as a healthy snack,” Huntoon says. “Each plant is the analogy of the chicken and the egg. The egg contains everything you need for that chicken to grow right in it.”
For Huntoon, microgreens are more than a product, they are his passion. He loves finding new ways to share them, especially with kids. Hence, Mr. Micro was born. Reminiscent of a Chia Pet, this fine fellow features sprouting hair and googly eyes. Huntoon also donates microgreens to food pantries and welcomes customers using SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks benefits.
“I gauge my success by how many people buy with SNAP,” Huntoon says. “I also have restaurant customers and private chefs who come to me for the living microgreens. Most of them cut the microgreens at the root line. But I’ve perfected a delicate growing system: a 12-ounce cup full of living plants, so you can pull out the entire plant, roots and all, and it’s clean and ready to eat.”
In addition to vending microgreens on Fridays at the Farmers Market, Huntoon sells 1st Microgreenery microgreens at Bridge Street Market produce department and offers them for pick-up at his Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program environmentally verified farm, 433 Broadway NW in Grand Rapids.
“You can order online and pick up with my socially-distanced delivery system,” Huntoon says. “When you pull up with your car, I’ll send your microgreens out on my plant trolley, a modified skateboard.”
1st Microgreenery also grows microgreens for pets and caters parties.
“I’ll grow them any way you want. For the Grand Rapids Food Coop [Initiative] party, I grew microgreen party pizzas, a nine-inch round radish mix,” Huntoon says. “Show up at a party or potluck with these things and you own the place.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy 1st Microgreenery Fresh Living Microgreens