Being a stay-at-home parent raising three kids and becoming an entrepreneur of a microgreen business sound like two full-time jobs. Can you imagine doing both at the same time?
It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Today, Laura Patterson from Hand-Grown Greens will share with us just how she does it.
Family Dynamics (02:50)
I grew up on a family farm, and I was committed to the idea of not being a farmer. I worked as a registered nurse for 12 years while my husband was the stay-at-home parent. The dynamic shifted when I started missing out on my kids. I did some soul-searching for other options which were limited at the time since I went to school for something really specific.
I wanted to mesh what she was doing to make money with her life, and the thought of growing my own food excited me, hence going into microgreens. What prompted the transition were my personal turmoil and my husband getting a job opportunity.
Working and Being a Mom—do they conflict each other? (7:30)
Yes. When I was a nurse, people knew what I was and what she did, and that gave me comfort along with the income. Yet I felt the need to be a more ‘present’ mom. I wasn’t sure at first if I could be a stay at home parent and have no work involved. I felt the strong need for balance like a job, business, an endeavor, or even a hobby that was not related to child-rearing.
Starting the Microgreens business (10:45)
I had two kids at the time, and I thought that the family is complete. Considering the time frame with the kids’ schooling, I thought it would be a good time to start a business. Shortly after I started the business, I found out I was pregnant. I was excited, but I knew I needed to reevaluate. I did a lot of seeding, harvesting, and washing trays when I was pregnant, and that’s when I felt that life and work are finally meshing together—it was great.
How do you plan a routine around taking care of kids and managing your microgreens business? (12:30)
I get a lot of my work done very, very early in the morning and in the evening. I also get little bits of things done throughout the day. To some, it may seem like you always working, but it’s what works for me, and I like it.
What’s hard for me to accept is that it’s not sustainable to just keep the business growing and growing. I like seeing the business grow—I feel productive, I enjoy it, and I believe in it. But I have to keep circling back to why I started it in the first place, which is to find balance with my family life.
Predictable Business vs. the Variability of Raising Kids (15:40)
Managing a business is nothing like raising kids where you really don’t know what’ll happen five minutes to five minutes. The business gives me some balance in its predictability and sense of accomplishment.
The finance side of business: is it a bonus or is it a need? (18:20)
The business definitely pays for itself and brings in a little money. Can we survive on it? Not right now. Do I see the potential for it growing? Absolutely, but I won’t be able to do it while watching the kids at the same time. It’s either I hire someone to help with the business or I get help with the kids. Or waiting and staying at this level for the time being.
You’re currently at 60 trays a week. How many trays a week would be a significant piece of the family’s finances? (20:30)
I’ve punched the numbers on that, and about 200 trays would be profitable for our family. For now, a lot of the income I generate goes back to the business with hopes of building a solid foundation for when I grow the business.
The big question: If you want to go from sixty to two hundred trays today, what’s realistically possible if you really needed to do this? (22:50)
If we really needed to do it, I have confidence that we could do it. I think what makes a person successful in something like being an entrepreneur is just determination and grit and figuring out that there are ways. There are so many different options and channels to go about how you can market your product.
Which do you think would give you more returns, hiring someone for childcare or for the business? (24:50)
I’ve thought about it so much. I’d love to have someone I could teach—the growing, the harvesting, the delivering. My kids are so little, and them being little is such a small window of time. I don’t want to look back and think, ‘I missed it,” because of being so caught up in this business.
Can you realistically do serious tasks at a high level for an extended period of time while you’re watching a one-, three-, and five-year-old? (28:00)
Sadly, no. I can do little things like bring the kids into the greenhouse and keep them busy in their workstations for a while, but you can’t get prolonged periods of work in.
As for prioritizing tasks, I make a weekly list and a daily list, and I divide it. I write the things that must get done this week, things I must get done today, and then I write the other things I’d like to get done. A lot of the time, I’m only able to do the must-get-done’s, which can feel frustrating because I feel like I could do so much better. But I circle back again to why I started this business in the first place—it allows me to be present with my kids.
“Just because I’m choosing this now doesn’t mean this is how it’ll always be.”
Is being a mom an advantage for selling the product? (34:10)
I’ve been asked that before like, “oh, do you use your cute kids? People probably can’t resist those kids.” And they are adorable kids. If I were working in the farmer’s market scene, it might be to my advantage.
I feel like people have a soft spot for farming families, but that’s not the marketing strategy I’ve gone with. I keep my personal life and business life separate. I sell my microgreens to groceries, several different retailers, some restaurants as well, so I don’t know if the family and having kids has helped me with that.
When you started with microgreens, were there already some established producers? (36:55)
As far as I knew, I didn’t know any large or small microgreens operations. I knew many small farms that were growing pea shoots, some flower shoots, but that was it. Where I am, a lot of people care about where their food is coming from, and they also care about eating nutritionally dense food, so I feel like the market’s still pretty wide open in my area.
As a small business, you sell to four sales outlets: small groceries, restaurants, aggregator, CSA. How do the sales percentages between them look? (39:00)
It depends on the time of the year. During offseason in the fall to winter, more than half my sales go to CSA’s, and about 25% of my sales go to my one restaurant which always has big, consistent orders. Then the rest go to the retails. I also tried to go into the farmer’s market before, but I didn’t find it worth the time.
Did you approach the CSA’s or did they find you? (41:30)
It’s actually a personal connection since my father started the first CSA’s in the area. I think people really like that part of the story, that I grew up here, did something for a little while, and now I’m back working collaboratively with the farm.
What about your success strategies for getting into grocery stores? (42:55)
I tried to get into a lot of grocery stores. In my area, they have a pretty standard new vendor application, and I jumped through those hoops. It wasn’t originally successful. After selling wholesale to retail stores, I got certified organic. Once I had that seal, it opened a lot of doors for me. But it was definitely me seeking them out.
What kind of deals are you working on your product (i.e., returns, etc.)? (44:30)
I was so desperate to sell in the beginning that I said I would sell on consignment. I don’t do that anymore—I stand behind my product and believe in the quality of my product. I would be willing to work with stores if they said they had a lot of product that was going off and that they were losing, but nothing of the sort happened so far. I also realized that what was really cutting into my profit margin was growing way too much in the hopes that I would sell, so now I really try to grow to order.
What type of packaging do you use for grocery stores? (46:40)
I used to just use plastic, but I don’t feel too great about it. I felt like I could do better about it, so I did a bit of research, so now I use compostable clam shells. It might not be the best option, but I feel like it’s a step in the right direction.
You said you had a big wholesale distributor tap you, what did it look like when that big opportunity came your way? (48:05)
They would have had me produce ten times what I’m producing now, which is six hundred trays a week. It wasn’t so large that it was an absolute impossibility, but it would mean so much more than what I’m doing now—I’ll need to expand the greenhouse a little bit, get a temperature-controlled room, playing around with the tables a little bit. As much as it was so attractive, part of me thought, is this what I was working for? There’s no way around it, it’ll definitely cut down on my time with the kids. I felt that deep down, it just wasn’t the right move.
You’re into this idea of teaching and empowering moms. (54:00)
It’s the newest part, and it’s been on my heart. I realize that all moms care about what they’re feeding their kids. And all moms care about their kids having some connection to where their food is coming from. I feel like I can reach out to fellow moms on that level. Not as someone who has it all figured out, but as someone who also cares.
I put up a little workshop geared towards parents and anyone who’s interested in growing microgreens in their homes, with my main goal being to make it doable and actionable. Growing a microgreen in your windowsill is so small, and yet so powerful. It’s something you see results in so quickly that you can involve your kids in so easily.
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Diego: [00:00:00] If you're a stay at home parent raising three kids, how do you start and grow a microgreen business at the same time? And hint, it's not easy, but it is possible. Find out how Laura Patterson is doing it coming up. Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego Dai ego today's episode of farm.
Small farm smart is brought to you by paper pod co your source for farm efficiency. At . Our goal is to have you farm fast and live more it's tools like the Jang seeder and the paper pot transplanter that make that possible. You can get into the field, get your work done and get out of the field so you can do other work, be it marketing, contacting customers, growing the business, or just taking some time off and spending it with your family. Learn more about all the time saving and labor saving tools that we have to offer at paperpot.co.
Speaking of family and spending time with family today's episode is with Laura Patterson. She's a stay at home mom who left work to start a microgreen business and to become a stay at home mom. So she's taking care of her kids and growing and running a business at the exact same time.
And these are little kids, not an easy task. I think a lot of people think raising kids is relatively easy and you can run a business in parallel with that. No problem. I can tell you firsthand, it's not very easy. And Laura will echo that. We'll find out some of the strategies that she's using to run her business successfully while raising her kids successfully.
How do you make those two sides, not conflict and butt heads. How do you frame the business? So it works for you and your lifestyle. That's really the key to what Laura is doing. She set realistic goals and expectations for where her business can go and what she wants to get out of it. And it's those expectations and those desires for the business that guide all the decisions that control the direction of the business.
So if business growth comes at the expense of one of those requirements, maybe just maybe the business won't grow. So let's find out how she's doing it. Being a mom and being a farmer. It's Laura Patterson. You are a farmer, but you're also a mom, a stay at home, mom of three kids. Can you talk a little bit about your family dynamic and how that fits into farming?
Laura Patterson: [00:02:55] our family dynamic has, I feel been constantly shifting. Maybe a lot of people can relate to that. I grew up, on a working family farm and as much as I loved growing up on that farm, I was pretty committed to the idea of not being a farmer. when I grew up when I had my own family and my own adult life.
So it's interesting now to. Look back on that. I worked as a registered nurse for past 12 years or so, and I was the working one in our family when we had kids. So I went back to work, shortly afterwards, after my first two babies were born and my husband was a stay at home parent and we had.
Both were on the same page with that, as far as, that being a priority for us, trying to have one of us be home, if at all possible. so things that kind of shifted when I started to feel like I was. Missing out on my kids and losing my passion for healthcare and my role in that. And so I started really doing some soul searching on what my other options were, which felt limited at the time, because I've gone to school for something pretty specific, but I kept coming back to the only thing that really got me excited, which was the idea of.
Growing food in some capacity. And so I've been trying to figure out how I could make that work with my family, incorporating work in lifestyle rather than having a job that I go to. So I don't know if that answers your question.
Diego: [00:04:37] No, it does. So if we go to that point in time where you're working and you have kids. You want to potentially transition out your husband wasn't working at that time, correct?
Laura Patterson: [00:04:48] No, he was home with the kids.
Diego: [00:04:53] when that comes up. that's a point in life. I think some families potentially get to either side and I could switch the husband and wife roles, keeping the same, this transition point for you. How did you guys approach. We need to change because things get comfortable, health care, you're probably at a decent paying job. And if you leave that he now has to pick up a job and you're starting your own business.
Laura Patterson: [00:05:22] Yeah, it was, tricky and a little bit stressful, I would say, because you're right. We were, we work in a comfortable, situation. And I could see how the years and the decades would go by and it wasn't a terrible situation. It wasn't a bad life, but I didn't feel fulfilled. And I wanted. To show Mike, I wanted to show my kids something different. I wanted to be doing something that was just more integrated with my life.
I just, I really felt like I was going to a job, punching a clock and then coming home for some family time, squeezing family time in. And I just wanted to mesh what I was doing to make money with my life. And that's what I'm still trying to figure out how to do so what. What prompted the change really was a kind of a combination, both of my own sort of personal turmoil, coming to a head and my husband getting a job opportunity.
So it just felt like it was the time. for him to go back, to work, which he had taken a break from and he was feeling maybe like he was ready, ready to get a break from the stay at home parent thing. And I was definitely wanting to make the shift. So we made the jump and that's where we're at now.
So he is working, he works a construction job and. I�m at home with the kids trying to get my microgreens operation up to a level of profitability where he could maybe be done with his job.
Diego: [00:07:09] For you. How did you feel about working and being a mom? Was there any sort of conflict there?
There's obviously different types of people. My wife is all in mom. That's what she loves doing. She doesn't want to work. I have a sister-in-law who has kids, but she gets a lot of personal fulfillment out of her career. I'm probably in that boat as well. Where being a stay at home, dad, full-time dad for me without a career or a business.
Would be challenging. So everybody's different. Did you have any sort of poll just due to the fact that the mom's side and the career side
Laura Patterson: [00:07:53] conflicting? Yes. It's a very, it's a very interesting question because it's such a really ranges, I think person to person it's just such a personal thing and something that you, I don't think you really know until you try doing it.
How you're gonna feel. part of me was really scared that I would leave nursing and I would miss that role and that role, I had a very defined, everyone on the outside knew what I was and what I did when they heard you're a nurse. And that was very comforting. I had. Steady income, which was also a nice and I was used to.
And But I still had, I had this feeling that I needed to be more, a more present mom. I wasn't sure if I would be able to be a stay at home parent and have, no work involved. I did before I started my business, I was home with the kids and I felt like I needed some balance, whether it was, A job, a business, some kind of an endeavor, a hobby, even something that I felt passionate about that was not related to child rearing.
So again, I'm not sure if that answers your question, but I did feel a need for that. At the same time I wanted to be home and present for the little day in and day out, things that are really make up your young kids' lives. My kids are five, three, and just turned one. So they're young.
Diego: [00:09:28] Yeah.
Yeah, little ones. And I know I totally get where you're coming from and everybody is different, but to derive a hundred percent of your fulfillment from being a parent. I think can be hard, especially now where there is this culture of two-parent working homes, a lot of opportunity that you can start from home side businesses.
The Internet's enabled a lot of that. So just to sit and grow with your kids every day, it's not that it's not a fit. But for, I think a lot of people, it can't be the whole fit. And so you look to start a business. And when you look to start the microgreen business, did you have two kids at that time? Or three?
Laura Patterson: [00:10:15] I had two and that was our family was complete. So I thought this was a good time. I was looking at, Both kids being in school and the next couple of years, and I thought it may take one or two years to get the business off the ground. And then I will have that chunk of time while still being able to be the parent, who gets them to school.
Is there when they come home. and then I found out it was pregnant shortly after I'd started my business. So I had to reevaluate again. And at that point, Wheels were in motion. I was excited. I wasn't going to change my plans.
Diego: [00:10:50] how was that experience in and of itself? Because that's something I can only relate to second hand.
Laura Patterson: [00:10:56] Yeah. I did a lot of, a lot of seeding and harvesting and washing trays when I was very pregnant and it was great. It was great. I really felt Life and work or meshing and integrating. And my kids were there seeing what I was doing. They know that I love to grow. I think they think everyone's moms grow micro and that's just part of life.
So it's going to be interesting. My youngest just as in, to start kindergarten. So his world is going to open up a little bit. But the pregnancy was easier. Now, having a one-year-old is a whole new challenge. He has a very active, busy little guy and trying to squeeze my work in, is becoming more and more challenging for sure.
Diego: [00:11:45] How do you tackle that? Cause it's not like a hard schedule commitment that you can work around where it's, I have to drive the kids to school every day. And that's a fixed time. Monday through Friday. When you have little kids, especially at that age one years old, they can be fine one minute and then five minutes later, their life is a disaster.
And then they're fine. Five minutes later after that. And then it's a disaster again, five minutes later when you have that. Type of behavior, which I think can be expected for a lot of kids. Just unpredictable variable. How do you plan a routine around it? Especially given that it's, microgreens where there are some strict timeframes that you have to observe.
Laura Patterson: [00:12:31] there are definitely days that things have to happen and yeah. I get a lot of my work done very early in the morning and in the evening, I get little bits of things done throughout the day. And to some, it may feel like, you're always working then. You're always, it works for me right now.
And I like it. I never used to be a morning person and now the mornings. Are my most productive times. And I've grown to really like the morning time, especially if everyone is sleeping in, which is it doesn't happen too often. Now my little one's an early riser, but I do get a lot done kind of on the, the front end of the day and the tail end.
So that's how I squeeze things in. and I've had to realize that, There is, a limit. it's really not sustainable for me to just continue to grow in, grow and not been a little bit hard for me to accept just because
I like seeing the business grow. I feel productive. I believe in it. I enjoy doing it and I have to keep circling back to the reason I started. It was. As a means of finding balance with my family life. And so if it is starting to detract from that, or I am starting to feel any feelings of resentment about time, just to circle back.
And so I feel like I try to do that each morning and just remember, and be thankful my life is radically different, than it was. and I'm thankful for it. And it's hard work. It's a different type of hard work, but I also, I'm kind of person who likes, calling the shots and doing what needs to get done, finding a time and getting it done. So I managed to do that.
Diego: [00:14:29] Do you find, as a parent having a business as chaotic as a business can be, it's one thing that has order and that you can control relative to raising kids, which can be so variable?
Laura Patterson: [00:14:47] Yes. The business is very predictable. there are sometimes things that happen that you're not expecting, but it's nothing like raising kids where you really don't know, like you said, five minutes to five minutes, how things are going to be going, with the kids and you have to.
You have to be flexible. You have to have a tremendous amount of patience to be home with your kids, the business and balance, and that there is some predictability and there is some sense of accomplishment. I feel like being home with your kids. Of course, in the bigger sense, I feel like you're doing something so meaningful.
You are shaping. Who these little people are going to become. And you're a big part of that. But in the moment in the ins and outs, it feels like you are just in a constant cycle of laundry and dishes and wiping bottoms. And so it doesn't feel productive sometimes in the moment. So sometimes it's nice to have a day where I'm like, I.
Got these Tracy, did. I got these orders delivered those kind of check off the list, kind of things. It feels nice. And it gives me that sense of accomplishment, I think
Diego: [00:16:06] my wife feels that cause she watches the kids more than I do, and I think she does get bogged down in that minutia of. The day-to-day grind drudgery, which sometimes it can be, she, 20 loads of laundry a week for anybody.
eventually you're just sick of folding clothes. And to have an outlet is huge. And one thing I resonate a lot with what you said is I went back to why I started this business in the first place and. When people think about starting businesses, I think too quick, they jump into it to say, I want to do this and why do you want to do it?
I want to start it and I want to make money, but it is more than that. So when you look at the why behind this business, you've mentioned it's fulfillment. How does the finance side tie into that? Is this something where it needs to pay for itself? Obviously want to see it grow and any money that comes in for the family is bonus versus. Wait, we have to have this money to survive.
Laura Patterson: [00:17:09] right now. It's more, the first of those two scenarios, it definitely pays for itself and brings in a little money, which is helpful. could we survive on it? not at the level it is now. Do I see the potential for it growing? Absolutely. But I would not be able to do it and watch the kids at the same time.
So it would be a matter of either hiring someone to help me with the microgreens or getting some help with the kids. And so that's the question or waiting and being okay with it being at this level for a little while. And that is. what I've made my peace with right now is that there been some opportunities to grow that I've had to just say now is not the time.
And it's hard when you get in it and you, what you're working for starts happening and it's exciting. And you want to just keep going down that path, but that sort of constant recheck of, Why you're doing this, what your true priorities are, what you absolutely need to do. just continuing to reevaluate that and deciding to grow or to not grow for now.
Diego: [00:18:28] Because right now you're at 60 trays a week of microgreens and when people jump into micros, that's the thing it's really easy to get started and be doing 10 tray a week. Once you're doing 10 trays, it's so what that's work for a little bit of money, a little bit of money that doesn't really make a huge difference.
And you work your way up to 60. And what have you found at 60 in terms of the cashflow that business can generate? When you have a family is 60 trays. Like you said, you couldn't live off of it, but is it significant or is it fairly minimal and where would you have to go? In terms of trays per week, do you think to really make it a significant financial piece of the family's overall economic picture?
Laura Patterson: [00:19:14] I've crunched some numbers on it. I think at 200 trays, I could, be profitable for our family. 60 trays. It's hard to say I'm in the beginning stages. And a lot of the money that I make is going back into the business. I built a greenhouse this year. I got a cooler, some purchases that are necessary for the business.
okay. So I feel like a lot of the money right now is going back into the business with hopes of building a solid foundation, that if I was able to grow more, I would have all those things in place already. So again, I'm not trying to skirt your question. but I don't know exactly, like I said, I think I've thought of 200 trays as being, Doable solo or with a part-time person.
If I, if my husband was home also watching the kids and we were able to do something, creative with that, where we were sharing, which I think is ideal. everyone is different, but I think raising kids with a partner with other people where there's no one sole. Care provider is the healthiest option for everybody.
if it's possible. And I think when you're working from home, you have a lot more options as far as splitting up time and being able to do different things. So
Diego: [00:20:41] here's the million dollar question. I, you've had opportunities for growth, which you turned down and we'll get to that a little more in detail later, you're at 60 tries 200 would make a huge difference, but to get to from 60 to 200.
You need resources, whether that's money to pay for childcare or someone to watch the kids to free you up to do this business growth, or you need somebody to come in the business to help grow it. So the big question is if you want it to go there today and what's realistically possible, if it was well, we really need to do this.
Laura Patterson: [00:21:22] If we really needed to do it, I have confidence. We could do it. I think what makes a person successful in something like being an entrepreneur is just determination and grit and figuring it out there are ways. I'm fortunate. I live in a great area for microgreens. I live in East of Seattle and there's a real interest in a real awareness about what microgreens are.
there's so many different options to go as far as, how you market your product and what channels you want to use to sell. So I feel like. there's so much opportunity, at least where I live. if I grew more, I could sell more, but you're right. I would need to make some big changes. I'd need infrastructure growth, and I would need to reevaluate the plan of whether I'm investing more time in microgreens or I am delegating some of that. And where my kids fit into all of that.
Diego: [00:22:34] If you had to make a choice now, which direction do you think you'd lean in knowing there's no right answer and you need to probably figure it out regardless, because I think parents are trapped into this conundrum of do I hire somebody and where am I hiring them for? Is it on the childcare side or is it on the business side? If you had to decide. Right now, is there one that you think would give you more return on an effort spent? That's
Laura Patterson: [00:23:08] an interesting question because I've thought about it so much. all hypothetically, because right now my husband is. Working and providing an income for a family, which I'm so grateful for.
It gives me the luxury of just pondering these things instead of being forced into making a decision. and I would need him to be on board also, for making a big jump like that. And it's a scary, it's a scary thing when you're responsible for three little people and. It's not the sure bet. I can have all the confidence in the world, but it's still not a sure bet.
So if I were to go with either having someone help me with childcare or get some help on the business end at this point in time, I would, if I could find the right person, I would love to have someone that I could teach and, work with me on. The growing and, growing, harvesting, delivering all of that.
That's taking up a lot of time. My kids are so young right now. I feel like it is such a small window of time that I really don't want to look back and think I missed it. I was so caught up in starting this business and look how big they are now. So that's how I feel right now. As hard as. Either way would be hard. But I guess that's the best way I can answer that.
Diego: [00:24:28] Yeah. I don't think there's a right answer in that. I was thinking about after I asked it, how would I go? And maybe this is me just basing it upon what I actually did. I think I would outsource childcare because. I think you could get spot childcare in the middle chunk of the day, where there are some naps and there's, you can keep the kids busy during that time.
And that's when the bulk of microgreen business growth could take place. And you still have the mornings and the evenings, the really early morning, the later in the evenings to do any work on the business. And then you have the morning when the kids wake up, which is when I find they're really fresh and want to engage.
And then also the evenings free to spend some time with them. So you're freeing up that middle chunk of the day to really go out and pound the pavement. it's probably a sales thing really, where a lot of effort needs to be spent to get to go from 60 to 200. It's not a production issue.
It's you need to move that many more trays. Looking at what you have available. Now, in terms of time, you talked about during the day, you can do some little things here and there. I always wonder how more people with parents or stay at home. Parents who have businesses get more done during the day.
And I often think, is it just me? That's struggling with this. can you realistically do serious tasks at a high level for an extended period of time while you're watching when your old three-year-old five-year-old
Laura Patterson: [00:26:08] so pretty resounding. Now you can do little things. I can put my one-year-old in the backpack carrier and go out to the greenhouse with my kids and they've got little workstations and they can, they'll play for a little bit and I can do some quick spot watering, but no, you can't get.
Prolonged periods of work. And sometimes something that I know if I could focus on it would take me 20 minutes will take me four hours. To slowly chip away, which is so I'm not at all efficient during the day. If there's something that really needs to get done, I can try to get it done. But, the morning window is usually when I can focus in and be more efficient. And that's because the kids
Diego: [00:26:53] When you're at that efficiency. Are there parts of the business that's where you really focus on is that. Where you're communicating with customers, is that where you're doing your seating. When you look at everything that goes into running a microgreens business, is there stuff that you put this is high priority, high value.
I have to do this when I have my own time in the morning, and then there's other things which I can do during the day here and there they're less critical. There's more wiggle room, maybe more padding.
Laura Patterson: [00:27:23] Absolutely. That's the way I look at my days and my weeks and I. I make a weekly list and I make a daily list and I make, I divided.
I'm a, just a hand on scrap paper kind of person. and I write the things that must get done this week. And then each day I write the things that must get done this day. And then I write my other things that I would like to get done. And a lot of times I only get the must get dones. done, which can feel frustrating because I feel like I could do so much better, but again, it's that circling back to saying, but this is allowing me to be present with my kids for this period of their life. And because I'm choosing this now does not mean this is how it will always be.
Diego: [00:28:16] when you look at where you're at as a business, 60 trays a week. And you're saying, this is how I do it. Now. This is not how it was. How it always will be. Is that how you get through this period? Because I know it can be frustrating to have a business that 60 trays, no doubt takes up a lot of work.
The income it brings in is good, but if you're reinvesting it, like you're probably not pulling a ton of cash out of the business. And at some point when you're doing any business, my horns are not where the work is. Great. The cash out is. Okay. Eventually you get to the point of I either got to grow or get out, but you're also getting fulfillment and stuff like that.
So that's carrying you through and this is temporary while the kids are younger. So is it just. I'm going to make this solid, I'm going to grow it as much as I can with my bandwidth. I'm going to learn this business, get everything down and when, and if that opportunity arises in the future and I want to seize on it to grow, I'll be ready to take advantage.
Laura Patterson: [00:29:21] Yeah. Yeah. that is how I feel. and again, it's the goal is. To be profitable, but I do get a lot out of it as far as just my own personal feeling of balance. It's something that I enjoy and I believe in, and it's, I like doing it every day. Every time. I unstacked my trays. I have a little feeling of wonder, like amazement, look, they all germinated, look how tall they are and look how they're lifting the trays up.
It just gives me a little krill. And so I, even if I was making no money, I feel like it that makes it worth the work. the time. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to make good money at it. Also. That would be great, but it's not all about that. And again, I have the luxury of having steady income provided by my partners so that I don't have to stress about it right now.
So when I start thinking, Oh, I've got to build, I got to do this, and this is how I could make more money. And it's all. Hots. And it's nothing. There's no immediate push that I have to do it right now, but I do think there will come a time where it's going to be like grow or turn this into a hobby and do it for family and friends and fun. But I think at this point it's going to be grow.
Diego: [00:30:53] I can emphasize empathize with that, doing something you love to do it. And then my wife and I were having a conversation this weekend and yeah. She was saying, you really like growing vegetables more than you like eating vegetables, don't you?
And I'm like, yeah, you're probably right. As I'm terribly guilty of, I like starting the seeds. I like putting them in the ground. I like watching them grow. And when it comes time to harvest and post-harvest kind of I don't really want to do that. And so we'll give them away or I'll give it to the chickens or I'll compost it.
And you could say, that's a waste, but. For me the front end of it's fun. And that's where I get my enjoyment. That's how I framed the activity. So it aligns. But if you look at it through a different lens of the economics of it, or how the time goes in, you could say you're doing things wrong or why even do this to begin with, but you're not seeing it through the same eyes that I am and how I filter it.
So I respect your approach and I think it. Is important for everybody to define that and really believe in it, being a mom, running this business, have you found that to be an advantage for selling product?
Laura Patterson: [00:32:07] I've been asked that before, too, Oh, do you use your cute kids? So people probably can't resist those kids and, they are adorable kids of course.
But, I feel like if I was. Working in the farmer's market scene. That might be to my advantage. I feel like people can have a soft spot for farming families and seeing that may help with sales. that's not the marketing strategy I've gone with. I keep my personal life pretty separate. I'm new to the world of social media, very new, and it's still very foreign to me.
but I am on Instagram and I have made a pretty conscious decision as cute as some of the pictures of my kids. In the world of microgreens are, I've just chosen to draw a line there and have my personal life and my business life separate. I sell most of my micros through wholesale. I wholesale them to several different retailers and sell to some restaurants as well.
And so I don't know if the family and the having kids has helped me, Exactly. I have done a lot of running around with fresh sheets and samples with all my kids in tow. And I don't, I think it hurts me rather than helps me, honestly, when you
Diego: [00:33:32] started doing this, was there. Already some established microgreen producers there, or were you in a pretty new market for this type of product?
Laura Patterson: [00:33:42] As far as I knew, I didn't know any large micrograms operations and I didn't really know any small ones. I knew, many small farms in the area that were growing pea shoots, sunflower shoots, but that was it, And mentioned Instagram that has it's a strange thing, but that has opened my eyes to some of my neighbors and what they're doing.
And there are some other small operations nearby, but I feel like the market is still pretty wide open in the area that I am, that I'm in. There's just so many restaurants and so many natural food stores and CSA and farmer's markets. And, I'm in an area where a lot of people care where their food is coming from.
And a lot of people care about eating nutritionally, dense food. And it's great. It's part of what I love about growing microgreens is I believe wholeheartedly and the importance of that and that where we choose to buy food or how we choose to. Get it, whether we're growing it ourselves or buying it makes a difference.
If enough people are going to care, I feel like it's so necessary to save small farms. And I'm such a huge, I feel like the most important thing you can do if you do care is to join a CSA. And maybe beyond that is to start growing food yourself. And I have a real heart for that. And I feel like. I was so fortunate to grow up where that was normal and doable.
And there's so many people in my area who work tech jobs and are very busy people and maybe they do care, but how to bridge that gap is challenging for them. And I feel like there may be something in there that I could be a part of as far as, empowering people to. care about where the food is coming from, to feel like they could even grow food themselves or be connected to a local farm that is growing food.
And I just really, I've gotten I think off your question, cause I don't remember what your question was, but it's just. part of why I love growing microgreens too, is it's a doable way that I can still be part of that small farm scene. Having a farm, a larger farm, a more diverse farm is overwhelming to me to do with the kids. Microgreens is so focused. It takes up such a small area. It's just been something that I can do even as a busy parent.
Diego: [00:36:27] So this is a small business you're selling to four different sales outlets, small groceries, restaurant aggregator, and through another farm CSA, if you break up total sales and their percentages, how did the percentages align to those outlets?
Laura Patterson: [00:36:45] It depends on the time of the year. So the CSS I'm selling to only in the off season, they're not wanting to buy microgreens for me when they're flush with their own grains. But in the winter time, when some of these CSS are buying in, produce from other local farms and the boxes are very, root crop heavy, it's really nice for them to have something that's.
Fresh and green and local, super local. So in the winter, the fall and the winter, I would say I am more than half of my sales go to CSA. the rest and the rest going to my, retail stores, which I'm up to six now. my restaurant, I have I'm down to just one large restaurant, so I've done different restaurants and I've just pared back to when I was very pregnant.
All the deliveries got to be a little much for me, and I just cut down to people with larger, consistent orders. So I have one large restaurant that's been very consistent. Okay. And so it's probably 25% of my sales there. but it just. Ranges a little bit with the season. So the aggregator is filling.
So I can say how much product I have available, which is great. and they do the marketing, which is also wonderful. And it's a new thing for me, but it's something that I can adjust. If I know I have. X amount already sold. And I had the capability of growing this much, then I will post it on my availability.
So it makes up the difference, the aggregator, and that's sorta how I use it right now. I did try farmer's market also and was not successful. I didn't find it worth the time that it took. So I just mixed that for now, anyway.
Diego: [00:38:49] In terms of the CSA or selling to, was that something you approached them with or did they find you.
Laura Patterson: [00:38:56] I have a pretty personal connection. It's my family's farm. It's one of the first CSA days in our area. Now there's many CSA days, but, my dad first started it back when it was still a pretty new concept in this area. And there's a really loyal membership. And it's how hasn't grown beyond what it can do as the family and a couple employees.
So they're about a 300 member CSA give or take, ranges a little bit in there, but it's been great for me. I can. Maintain some of my own autonomy, as far as this is my businesses and this is what I'm doing. And yet I live on the edge of the property. I've done pop-ups with the barn and, gotten to connect with a lot of the members.
So they know. The microgreens that we get in the winter, they're grown by one of the family members here and people like that. So I guess you were asking about with my family and asked that I feel like in that sense, people really like that part of the story of I grew up here, I did something else for awhile.
I'm back. And now I am working collaboratively with the farm. And it's good for everybody.
Diego: [00:40:10] What about grocery stores? What have been some of. Your success strategies for getting into those stores that you're into.
Laura Patterson: [00:40:20] I have tried to get into a lot of grocery stores, and I've tried some different things. A lot of natural food stores have a pretty set to at least in my area.
I don't know how it is in other areas, but as far as they have a pretty standard new vendor application and, I jumped through those hoops and originally wasn't really successful. And it was in my mind, I had the idea that I wanted to wholesale because I feel like. The delivery time and all of that is challenging to do with young kids.
So I thought if I could get a few big orders, that's going to be the best sort of business model for me in the stage of life. I did get certified organic, and the reason I did well to wholesale, to retail stores, once I had that seal, it opened a lot of doors for me. But it was definitely me seeking them out and approaching them. And so far it's all independent grocery stores. No chains.
Diego: [00:41:32] What type of deal are you working on your product? Is it, it's been all sorts of things in the past. I will, I'll sell you the product. I'll replace it. If it goes bad, they'll get credited back. How have you managed that whole thing?
Laura Patterson: [00:41:49] Yeah, in the beginning, I was so desperate to sell. I. Said I would sell on consignment basically. and now I don't do that at all. I really stand behind my product and I believe that I am selling a quality product and that it is a valuable product. And I will, I don't know, I guess I'd be willing to work with stores if they said they had a lot of, Product that was going off and that they were losing, but I just haven't had that experience.
And I think that the confidence of going in and saying this is the shelf life on me. Being willing to work in the beginning with amounts and volumes being flexible on that, I really have tried to move, to, grow to order. Strategy, entirely to minimize waste in the beginning of that is what was really cutting into my profit margin was growing way too much in hopes that I would sell.
so now I really try to grow to order. So meaning a store will place an order, two weeks ahead of when they want it. And I will actually see that order for them. And so yes, in the beginning I realized that they may not know how the pilot's is going to move and it may take a little while for people to recognize it.
And so I can have some flexibility, but I don't do any buying back a product. And I haven't had anyone have a problem with it. Most of the stores have gotten their numbers down and they've consistently ordered a little more.
Diego: [00:43:35] What type of packaging areas and in the grocery stores, just typical clamshells, or are you, is compostable clam shells?
Laura Patterson: [00:43:40] I feel like it's something that, I was using just straight up plastic gen pack clamshells for awhile, and I just didn't feel great about it. Maybe when you're the one doing all the packaging and you just it's so much plastic. And I just felt like there was, I could do a better than that. There must be a better option and just did some research and I, it's not the perfect solution, but I feel like it's making an effort in the right direction.
And I feel like consumers care also. So the compostable, they're made from corn, I think plant-based container and they're a little bit more expensive. but I think it's worth it. I do have retail labels also, which are, they're definitely geared towards like a grocery store setting they're brightly colored and have all the information on there. So I feel like that has helped some too.
Diego: [00:44:43] So you're in the stores you're selling there and one of the big growth opportunities that recently came your way. And I'll read this from an email you sent me was. I sought out some wholesale distributors and when a big one was seriously interested, I found myself not really prepared to handle it.
Can you talk about when that opportunity came your way? What did it look like? Big one big wholesale distributor. How much were they willing to buy?
Laura Patterson: [00:45:12] I would have had to probably start producing 10 times what I'm doing now. So it would have meant. It wasn't the thing about it is it wasn't so much that I thought, Oh, it's just not possible.
It would be possible. I would have to beef up my infrastructure a little bit as far as building another grow room, which I've already been thinking about doing an indoor temperature controlled room, and. It's expanding the greenhouse a little bit, playing around with the tables and that sort of thing.
It wasn't so large that it was just an absolute impossibility, but it would mean so much more than I'm doing now.
Diego: [00:45:54] So you're saying you'd go from 60 to 600.
Laura Patterson: [00:45:57] That's how much they could buy. So that was what the initially, approached me with. So they're buying in from California. It's a Pacific.
That's a big distributor in Pacific Northwest. So at first I said, that's, it's way beyond my operation. Then they were only interested in growing and buying certain varieties from me. So we didn't get the exact numbers down, but they were willing to work with me a little bit. I think after I backpedaled, they really wanted to buy.
Diego: [00:46:31] Washington grown micro greens,huge upside right on the table. And I think a lot of businesses would be like, wow, this comes along. So you have this sitting in front of you. Obviously it's going to take work to get there. Obviously it's going to take infrastructure, but you decided not to pursue it due to more contextual reasons.
And that was because it would have meant giving up time with your kids.
Laura Patterson: [00:46:56] There was no way around it.
Diego: [00:46:59] Yeah. It's a hard decision.
Laura Patterson: [00:47:02] If I was further down, if I had an employee, if I was further, but it would change things for sure. And I just felt like deep down, I didn't feel like it was the right move as much as it was so attractive and appealing. Part of me wanted, it was just, I felt like this is what I had been working for. But was it really what I was working for?
Diego: [00:47:29] So that's not to say that 60 trays isn't a business. It definitely is, but 600, things are different. Like now you're suddenly you are deep in the business and there's, it's all hands on deck. It's full throttle. there's a lot more volume going there and it really defeats the whole purpose of. Why you came home to do it initially, at least it would.
Laura Patterson: [00:47:51] Now it would. Now it would mean me doing the same thing as being maybe not gone, but gone, not available to the kids because I would be managing the startup of a huge shift. It would take a while to get the wheels in motion for that. And I, it would have to be me. It would have to be me. I don't have. At this point, I listened to the podcast about, do you own a business or a job? I desire to own a business. I feel like I own a job that's wants to become a business when the time is right.
And if I was already in that, where I had a. Employee in a support person that was wanting to step up and we could hire someone else and train them and I could see it happening, but the timing just wasn't. So why did I even put myself out there? Not my proudest moment. Really? I don't know. I wouldn't,
Diego: [00:48:48] I wouldn't look at it that way.
Laura Patterson: [00:48:50] Maybe I just needed some affirmation. I don't know. I don't know. I just, I didn't know. So much of this business has been trying and not knowing what will stick and not knowing what doors will open and if doors open going through them and building from there. And so that's what I've been doing. I still feel like it, it was a good thing.
It was a learning thing. I feel like I had thought through pretty seriously. So I know when I would need to do to grow to that point. if I felt like the time was right, if I felt like I got to that point of okay, we grow this thing. Or turn it into a hobby. I do think it was good downplay.
Diego: [00:49:29] That is your not proudest moment. Cause I, I think you got to take these shots. I think it you'd be less proud if you just said I'm not even going to ask, but you did ask you went through a rational process to think about it. And decided not at least that door's open and you could always go back to them later on six months from now a year from now and say, you wanted 600, I can't do 600, but can we start it 30 a week?
Or, 30 trays worth a week or some amount worth a week and start it there. And then it blends in, but you've made that connection. And the reason I asked you earlier, if. Being a mom was a marketing advantage is because I think a lot of moms identify with other moms. And I think a lot of moms, source things from product endorsed by other moms because they are going through a lot of the same things.
And one thing you mentioned in an email you sent me is your. Into this idea of teaching and empowering some of those moms. Can you talk about where that part of the business is going?
Laura Patterson: [00:50:42] Yeah, it's the newest part and it's just been something that's been more on my heart than as a rational. Oh, here's another Avenue where I could make money.
I just feel like I've thought a lot about what makes businesses successful and. A lot of what I hear is it's important for you to have a story. And for awhile, I thought I don't really have a story. I feel like I've been average and sorta mediocre. and what do I have that sets me apart. But the more I think about it is of course, everyone has a story and I have a story too, and I feel like.
The way I grew up shaped how I see the world and how I think about food. And once you have kids, it becomes so much more important is how we're nourishing our kids. How we're shaping their minds. How are we are teaching them to have character, but also how we're nourishing their bodies. It's very important.
And it's our responsibility. And I feel like eating nutrient dense, local food that I've either grown or no, who known who's grown. It is just. Natural to me that I assumed it's natural to everybody, but it's not everyone had the same experience growing up. But what I do find is all moms care about what they're feeding their kids and all moms care about their kids, having some connection to where their food is coming from.
And I feel like I can reach out to. Fellow moms on that level. Not as someone who's got it all figured out, but as someone who also cares and starting, I put together a little workshop, that's, it's geared towards parents, moms, anyone really who's interested in growing microgreens in their home. And my main goal is to make it doable, make it approachable, make it, give some.
Some little action that you can take, because I think for so many people, it's so overwhelming, there's so much out there now about sustainability and zero waste and all these things that seem so hard to wrap your head around when you're so busy with your just day in, day out life, when you've got young children, especially that yes, you care about it, but what can you actually do?
What I'd love to do is. Give other parents, other moms, other people, one small step they can start doing. And that's gross in microgreens a new window sill. It's so little. It's so tiny. And yet it's so powerful. It's something that you see results so quickly that you can involve your kids so easily. I just, I think there's something really there.
And I'm excited to just share some of that content with people that are interested in and just see what the response is. I've got my first workshop coming up in a couple of weeks and I thought people really interested and. I think it's, I think it's a step that a lot of people want to take. And so that's my thoughts on that and seeing where it goes.
Diego: [00:54:24] Yeah, it's cool. It's just a different direction to take things in a different way to get more fulfillment out of a business. That's really set up for fulfillment, right?
For people that want to follow along with you, stay in touch, other moms that are looking for advice on how do you do this? How do you handle it? How'd you start up and maybe are local and want to come learn from you. Where are the best places they can go to follow along with your farm?
Laura Patterson: [00:54:50] Absolutely. I do have a website, so I hand grown greens.com. And then I'm on Instagram also at hand grown grains. So either of those places are a great way to contact me.
My email's there and I respond to DM. So it's been really a neat way to connect with other growers. And, like I said, I've got a real heart for sharing what I've learned so far. And That would be great.
Diego: [00:55:21] There you have it. Laura Patterson hand grown greens. If you want to follow along with her on Instagram, follow her at hand grown greens, which I've also linked to, and then notes for this one. I really want to thank Laura for coming on the show today. I really appreciate her honesty talking about what it's like to be a parent, especially a stay at home parent, raising kids and running a business.
Not easy, never easy yet. Doable. If the expectations are appropriate. Thanks for listening to this one until next time. Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.
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