This ComPost Features The Greensted, located in Zumbrota Minnesota. Here is their story:
Dean grew up on a Wisconsin Dairy Farm and Jayne mostly a city girl, but her dad grew a very large garden. She has lots of experience freezing veggies!
Dean and Jayne married in 2015, and Dean has always wanted to get back into some facet of farming, and Jayne has wanted to try her hand at marketing and branding a business. The marriage of two people and their dreams have made a good life and business partnership. When we married, we had no plans to grow a business, but it has given us much to learn and grow from both personally and in our relationship. Nothing like stress and challenge to make or break ya.
Dean worked very, very hard to grow a small garden in 2016. It was sandy soil, and he literally got nothing from it. Nothing. But he learned he really liked growing and nurturing plants. We started researching season extension options, and microgreens kept bubbling to the surface. So we bought a couple grow flats, a grow light, soil and seeds and started growing. Funny thing – they grew. They tasted incredibly good. We loved adding them to our salads. Our research indicated chefs used a great deal of and were often looking for fresh microgreens. Jayne approached the executive chef where she was working at the time, and started bringing in samples of microgreen mixes for him to taste. He liked this but not that and so it went. After several months of try this one, he finally said, “When are you going to start bringing me these so I can stop buying from the produce vendor?”
From there we were invited to participate in the Faribault Winter Farmers Market, which went really well. We signed up for 4 summer markets in 2018 and that was really busy as we were both working full time.
Jayne quit working in Aug. 2018 to devote full time to growing the business. No checks were automatically deposited in the account any more. She HAD to make the business work. It was after the busy summer of farmers markets we made the decision to go “retail” and focus more on the grocery store market, which was largely wide open and untapped. Many growers supply chef’s and fill CSAs with microgreens. But that wasn’t going to grow a “brand” for us. The decision to focus on retail wholesale opportunities has been the best decision. We meet people who are looking for fresh, learning that local sourcing is important, organic isn’t “required” but good growing practices are valued. Grocery store customers are fascinated they can get microgreens right along with their other groceries – “fancy” stuff like in restaurants, but easily incorporated into their home foods. It’s been a fun market to step into.
About our family:
We have 6 grown kids:
Dean has two daughters just out of high school, Hannah and Rachel. Currently they reside in Alexandria, MN and are working.
Jayne has four children:
BJ and his wife, Rachel Clare, daughter Shaelyn age 6. BJ works in AV at Mayo Clinic, Rachel is a successful “mommy blogger.” Shaelyn is a busy kindergartener. They live in Rochester. Rachel Joy, pursuing Cross Fit training, works full time as a virtual office assistant, resides in Rochester. Christopher engaged to Taylor wedding Aug 2020, works and lives in Byron; Heidi currently attending LaCrosse for Exercise Science, works at Methodist Hospital as a PCA, living in Rochester.
Tell us about the Farm:
The GREENSTED LLC formerly My Sweet Greens MN (2016 – 2019). We renamed/rebranded end of 2019 launched Jan. 1, 2020. We feel the new name is more encompassing of our farm products (current and coming) and a bigger umbrella for other opportunities we hope to pursue in education, community and charitable partnerships. Originally we wanted to have a coffee business, My Sweet Bean. That never got beyond wishful thinking before microgreens hit our radar. The “Bean” became “Greens” with the added MN. We’re so glad we went into “greens” not “beans.”
What ‘type’ of farm are you?
We are not certified, but employing many organic best practices and may go through the organic certification process in the future when the land we are renting is certifiable.
What are your favored farming practices? (water, pest control, cultivation)
Bottom water microgreen trays to avoid fungus/bacteria growth. No pests or cultivation needed.
How much food do you produce in a year?
In 2019 we produced approximately 2000 lbs of microgreens – distributed just over 1700 lbs, via 13,000 units primarily 2 oz containers sold wholesale at retail stores (grocery and co-ops) and direct at farmers markets. We also produced and sold some salad greens and tomatoes.
2020 is on trend to nearly double that microgreen production. We plant and harvest twice weekly, producing on average 50 to 60 lbs per week, nearing 300 lbs per month. In January we distributed just over 1600 units (2 oz clams alone with some restaurant bulk).
This year we have introduced a new microgreen variety mix, Pizzazz, we hired a ¾ time account manager employee, Paige. The first week of February we launched a brand new product, single serve microgreens. Paige is in the process of reaching out to more stores primarily in the Twin Cities, and helps with deliveries and store demos / farmers markets. She is being cross-trained on all aspects from seed to sale.
It’s perhaps an unusual step for a “farm” business to hire an account manager as a first employee. However, we feel it’s the best opportunity for us to continue to growing sales channels. We have the ability to upscale our production, but one person is no longer enough to manage account acquisition and loyalty, along with deliveries to nearly 20 locations weekly, helping with packaging twice weekly, and all that is involved in keeping a business afloat.
This is a natural career path step for Paige in an outside sales capacity and she’s done an incredible job learning and stepping right up to all the tasks needed. We hope she never leaves! Incidentally, Paige’s favorite microgreen is Sweet Peas.
Besides Just Food Co-op what other co-ops do you sell to?
- Bluff Country Co-op, Winona
- Spiral Natural Foods, Hastings
Where else do you sell your products?
- Kowalski’s Markets
- Farmers Markets
Restaurants that use our microgreens:
- Blue Heron, Winona
- Kahler Hotel Lord Essex Steakhouse, Rochester
- Blue Dog Café, Welch
What is one thing you wish everyone could understand about farming?
That supporting local farms, small businesses, all entrepreneurs is crucial to building a strong community and healthy economy. It’s more than a holiday “shop small business” thing. We need to support our local economy year round. It is vital. Supporting farms, fiber, meat, soap and care products, baked goods, canned goods, artisans, all these great producers create the vibrancy of our communities. Keep your dollars here.
Want to get in contact with The Greensted?
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The Greensted is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; link directly from their website!