Innovative Techniques to Grow Microgreens with Urban Rebel Farms (FSFS140)

 

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            There’s one step in the microgreens operations that may or may not be a problem for you and your farm—harvesting and packaging. And we have two farmers today who have completely bypassed that step and deliver their products in trays and uncut.

            Not only that, they even took an extra step further from being organic to growing their microgreens…vegan. How do they manage that?

Today’s Guest: Joey and Jerome of Urban Rebel Farms

            Joey and Jerome are longtime friends and are now currently running a growing microgreens operation in New Mexico. Primarily selling to chefs, they’re doing their best to keep up with the demands of their farmer’s market customers.

Relevant Links                                                                                           

             Urban Rebels Farm – Website | Instagram | Facebook

 

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • Introducing today’s guests, Jerome and Joey from Urban Rebel Farms (00:40)  
  • How Jerome and Joey met and how they started farming (02:02)
  • Worked in the restaurant industry and saw a lack (02:55)
  • The why behind organic and vegan agriculture and how it helps marketing (05:07)
  • Sourcing vegan inputs for microgreens production (06:53)
  • Hydroponics system in a microgreen production (08:18)
    • Dealing with high salinity coco quar
    • Ammending the coco quar to bring in more plant food
  • Quar and the microgreens media mix (10:45)
  • Finding just the right amount of water that each crop needs (12:57)
  • The difficulties of working with coco quar (14:18)
  • Adding more nutrients to the blank canvas of quar for microgreens to perform (16:00)
  • Mold or fungus issues between the quar and th nutrient solution (18:32)
  • Cost comparison of using coco quar and pre-mixed starting soil (20:03)
  • Advice for anyone who wants to make a nutrient-rich tea (20:54)
  • Designing nutrient teas for microgreens (23:04)
  • Trial and error: which tea goes to which crops (25:01)
  • Combating the coco quar’s salinity with enzymes (27:00)
  • The logistics behind delivering live trays straight to the customers (27:42)
  • All 30 crops are present at any given time (30:44)
  • Top 3 most popular crops (33:04)
    • The key to growing cilantro
  • Advice for growing 0 to 30 crops all at once (35:38)
    • Equipment to keep optimal environments
  • Sourcing out LED’s to grow microgreens (38:33)
  • Vertical growing and LED lights (39:51)
  • A microgreen crop that sells surprisingly well (40:37)
  • Integrating culinary experience with marketing microgreens (42:13)
  • Different restaurants, different demands (43:10)
  • A snapshot of selling live uncut trays to chefs and their longevity (44:19)
  • Dishing out microgreens in bottom trays (48:14)
  • Do the live, uncut trays fetch a premium price (49:06)
  • The magic of cutting the microgreens if you’re a chef (50:37)
  • Keeping the microgreen trays intact for deliveries (51:55)
    • Equipment
    • Tall crops
  • Crops that aren’t popular and are too much of a hassle to grow (55:24)
  • What works to get their products into new customers’ kitchens (57:49)
  • Social media presence on Instagram (01:00:27)
  • Grow first and figure out how to use after (01:02:26)
  • Asking chefs to check out new products (01:04:04)
  • Viewing farmer’s market sales relative to restaurant sales (01:06:53)
  • Selling microgreens at farmer’s markets (01:08:15)
  • Dollar per weight in the farmer’s market and in restaurants (01:10:24)
  • Highest dollar product per tray and target margin (01:11:53)
  • Time, commitment, and sacrifice to growing the business (01:14:24)
  • Diversifying products to grow the business (01:16:47)
  • Accommodating the microgreen demand in farmer’s markets (01:18:10)
  • Maintaining the friendship while running a business (01:20:30)

 

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FSFS140_Joey_Jerome_Urban

Diego: [00:00:00] One of the big negatives of commercial microgreen production is harvesting and packing all those trays. Today, I'm talking to somebody who's bypassing that step and they're just delivering live trays to the farmer's market and to their chef customers. It saves them time and keeps the customers happy. Stay tuned to find out what they�re doing and how they're doing it. Coming up.

Welcome to the world of farming, small and farming smart. I'm your host Diego today. The show takes me to New Mexico where I'm talking to Joey Haquez and Jerome Varga of Urban Rebel Farms. Now I've talked to a lot of microgreen growers in the past, but what Jerome and Joey are doing is something special.

It's different than what a lot of commercial microgreen growers are doing. First of all, they're growing all their greens vegan-ically. There's no animal inputs. Second. They only grow their micro greens in coco quar, no other ingredients. And then they irrigate that quar with a nutrient rich solution. And then as I alluded to in the intro, they deliver the microgreens that they do grow in live flats, directly to their customer. The combination of everything they're doing leads to long shelf life and that's led to good results with the restaurant customers. One other thing that it's interesting here is they have previous experience in the restaurant industry. So they know what chefs are looking for.

They combine that experience with these innovative growing techniques and other new techniques, which they're continuing to innovate to produce a really great product. And products. They're doing a lot of them. They grow over 30 different types of micros. There's a lot in this one. I think you'll get a lot out of it. Let's jump right into it with Joey and Jerome of Urban Revel farms. Somebody with Joey and Jerome from urban rebel farms outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. How'd you guys meet? And how did you get started farming?

Joey: [00:02:11] Jerome and I actually went to school together in junior high and probably knew each other a few years before that. So we're long time friends. The farming aspect, we, Jerome comes from a hydroponic world. I came from a restaurant industry and we both just wanted to, grow something and we put our heads together and decided microgreens was the route to go. And that's exactly how we started farming. It was like, Hey, you want to grow some microgreens. And now we're here.

Diego: [00:02:49] You get to do it in microgreens a little differently than other people I've talked to on the show. And we'll get into all that. When you were working in the restaurant industry, was there something that you saw or something that you noticed was lacking in the restaurant industry when it came to microgreens to direct your focus in that direction? Or was it just given the space we have and our interests? This is the direction we want to go?

Joey: [00:03:15] I definitely would say that there was something that was lacking. I've worked in a lot of fine dining establishments and it always seems like microgreens were only used during special events as an after. It was always something that the chefs really enjoy using.

They love garnishing the dishes with the accent, them very well. There's that longevity issue. And so that was pretty much what geared�one of the things that year to that, and the other was the fact that, microgreens, per pound, they're a great crop to grow. And, for the minimal amount of space that we had, it was just needs to be the perfect fit

Diego: [00:03:53] And thinking about hydroponically, Jerome having some experience there, what did you think could work out of that industry or coming from the hydroponic growth side that would transition into microgreens and work well there?

Joey: [00:04:04] It was important to me. And when speaking to Joey about it was that we wanted to grow microgreens technically hydroponically, but we wanted to do it organic. And we wanted to even take it a step further and grow a veganic meaning without any animal byproducts. And so with the years of learning about organic gardening and indoor setting, as well as hydroponics, we put them together. And so we're actually able to, grow in a coco quar social state. And so technically it's hydroponic, but the nice thing about coco is you can actually organic type amendments to continue to grow organically or, and in our case, veganically.

Diego: [00:04:52] Veganic agriculture, there's no animal inputs, byproducts think manures, blood meals, that type of thing. For you guys, what was the why behind that? Because I think that's pretty unique.

Joey: [00:05:06] I think one of the main reasons is we wanted to make sure that it was a safe product to enter a kitchen, just something that was going to be a little bit easier to work with, especially when you're trying to think of all of those critical points that you need to make sure you address, when growing, just, it was something that we felt needed to be done. If we wanted to go into, a live tray set up.

Diego: [00:05:30] How have you found that term is been in terms of marketing the product? Do customers ask about that? Do they pay attention to that? Is that a plus? Is that just okay, it's good. How do you think they view that?

Joey: [00:05:47] I have a few different responses, quite a few chefs. It's not something that they, that concerns them at all. Although they do take interest because it's not something you hear every day. However, with the everyday consumer, when they're buying vegetables, if they're vegans or even striving to be vegetarians or vegans, they really love the idea that they're eating a plant that is plant based. it's a little bit outside of the box. And so then there's obviously a lot more questions that come along with it that, know, it seems to have a great response. We really try to think a little bit outside of the box and use it as a marketing tool. Because of that response.

Diego: [00:06:26] When you think about sourcing inputs, compost, things like that veganically or a vegan origin, with no animal byproducts. Is that tougher or not? Maybe as much of a concern as some people might initially think.

Joey: [00:06:45] I think it's actually, it's more difficult to achieve because. No like compost, outside generally you have worms, breaking it down. the casting is a very valuable tool in the garden. it's a challenge to us because we have to replicate an NPK value as well as macro nutrients, which has NPK and micronutrients in order to, Get our plants to grow effectively.

other things that we like and being that we're using coco quar is that we have a blank canvas. So we have complete control over what is going into our products and including micro Hazai, enzymes and bacterias. back to the whole kitchen aspect of it, like Joey touched on it is we know that there's no E. coli in our product. We know that there's no, because there's no animal byproducts. there's no casting, anything like that.

Diego: [00:07:41] It really just dovetails in nicely then with your ultimate delivery mechanism for the micro reigns, you're selling them as live trays, which has the media in it. And this. Takes one worry out of the process for you.

Joey: [00:07:55] Absolutely.

Diego: [00:07:57] We talk hydroponic growing of microgreens. I think when people think hydroponics, they think pumps, they think maybe flood tables, a bell siphon system, something like that. How are you guys using hydroponics when it comes to microgreens. Can you talk a little bit about your actual growth setup?

Joey: [00:08:16] We do a vertical type system. basically it's a trade within trays. you a bottom eating, so the fresh water is delivered, from a tray without holes. So the tray without holes holds the water and the actual trade that has the media and contains the living greens in it. Has holes in it. the nice thing and unique thing about Coco Corp is that when you introduce water to it, it has a capillary effect that spreads the water evenly throughout the meeting.

So the coco quar is very effective in drawing the moisture throughout the whole tray. And the plants are fed daily. some are watered daily, some are water twice a day, depending on their needs

Diego: [00:09:03] And quar itself is, it's going to have a minimal amount of nutrients in it as it comes out of the package.

Joey: [00:09:08] so like you said, a quar has a minimal amount of nutrients. The big challenges that we face with quar is that it's high in salinity is really high in salt. So in salt doesn't really go well with, living we're growing, living greens. so we actually had to figure out a particular bacteria and enzymes that would actually help break down those salts to allow us to achieve what we want to achieve with the short run crop.

Diego: [00:09:34] It's interesting. So given the I'll call it inert. I know it's not nature of the majority of the nutrients coming into the system are coming in via the liquid that you introduced to it, which is water. And from reading your site, you bring like a tea and then that's what you're giving to your crops.

Joey: [00:09:53] Yes. And we also amend our coco quar. We amended this, the dry product as well in order to introduce a little bit of charge of a little bit more food for our plants to feed on through the cycle.

Diego: [00:10:04] The one thing that comes up whenever I talk about microgreens a lot to people is the media, what mix are you using? If you were taking your mix and breaking it down into, a rough percentage. When you say you're using a quar-based mix, how much of your mix would you say is quar?

Joey: [00:10:26] percent?

Diego: [00:10:26] So that's the sole thing you're not adding perilite or vermiculite or anything like that?

Joey & Jerome: No.

Diego: How do you find that performs in terms of�it's holding water, it's got the water holding capacity, drainage, things like that. it must be working if you're doing it. Is there any advice for people who are using that type of media?

Joey: [00:10:48] So we played around with many types of pre-blended quar that had perlite and that had even rice hulls and things like that for aeration. And we actually found that we perilite and the rice hulls in that aspect actually caused us problems as far as growing, starting grow algae or starting to grow molds. And so we, decided to actually try to eliminate it completely and see how quar would work because you're feeding the right amount of water every day, that patch it, uptake and ready for a new batch of water.

So the advice I would give people is that you want to make sure difficult because you don't want to over-water and you don't want to underwater. So it's not like a lot of people think, Oh, water in my crop three times a week. in this case, the demands are higher. And so it's harder work because you actually have to pay attention to these microgreens daily and water them daily.

watering it, there is somewhat of a set schedule, but there's nothing like the eye catching, just a slight lean of the micro green on the edge of the tray. there's a lot of observing. There's definitely, people are constantly in and out of that room to make sure that they're cared for at least one of us too. Cause that's all that there is right now.

Diego: [00:12:09] Yeah. the great thing about bottom watering is you're not getting the foliage wet. You're not splashing soil up onto the greens themselves, and you can dial in a quantity that you want. But one of the dangers in that is too much, and then you have standing water in a tray, which is going to find its level on the inner tray. And then you have the roots in the soil sitting in solid water. And I like what you said, there's a lot of careful observation there.

How have you found it finding the right amount of water where you're putting in enough, so the tray can soak it all up, but not so much that they're standing water when you guys grow so many different crops. I imagine there's a lot of different water uptake ratios.

Joey: [00:12:58] So we, it's just a trial and error and also, and when we error, it's a matter of dumping that standing water out, getting it out of the tray, because another fact about coco is it actually, even when Coco gets over watered, it still contains 20% air in there.

And it's just a unique property of coco quar. It's going to be a little more forgiving than soil. even though sometimes it can be a little more difficult to work with. It's definitely more forgiving.

Diego: [00:13:30] When you say more difficult to work with, what would you say is difficult about quar?

Joey: [00:13:35] Oh, the fact that we actually are working with the blank canvas, as Jerome had mentioned earlier to me to make sure that the plants are getting all the nutrients they need to. To grow and look healthy and have great flavor. that car is a blank canvas. It's something that Jerome has really worked at to generate, great, tea brew for us.

Diego: [00:13:58] You're applying that to via the bottom on, or you mentioned that you're dumping out, the extra that sits in a tray. How long do you give a tray to fully absorb that water before you go back and dump it out.

Joey: [00:14:14] I'd say probably about eight to 12 hours, depending on the crop. some, you can see that we grow close to or eat different varieties. so everything uptakes at different rates, also an indication is what the quarter looks up on the top.

What it looks like. Does it look wet? Does it look dry? Is it going to be able to absorb more? Is it, is it over water? I think over the last year and a half, we've been able to really dial it in where, we can walk in there's many varieties growing. You can actually spot out the ones that are like, Oh, that's a water pull that, let that tray dry out. Or this one has a lack of water. So it's really just trial and error and just, joining the experience of it

Diego: [00:15:02] When you think about growing microgreens in a media like that as you say, it's a blank canvas, there's no nutrients in it to start with, or there are minimal nutrients in it to start with. Have you guys tried growing a crop with adding, just say straight water and then comparing that against the crop where you have this nutrient-laden tea that you applied to it.

The reason I ask is because I've had a lot of conversations and I can't get a real concise answer on this of how much nutrients are microgreens pulling up out of the soil that they're grown in because they're relatively short-lived crops. They're pulling a lot of those initial nutrients from the seed. Which they originally grew from. So on one hand you could say, the media could be more sterile because the seed comes with its own nutrients and adding excess might be adding excess just for the heck of not because it needs it. Have you toyed around with that or had to increase ratios because you haven't had certain performance?

Joey: [00:16:13] I'd say we actually had to increase ratios because we didn't have the performance. We initially started out with close to a blank canvas and, we made the decision because our trays were just looking a little weak and, even taking them to the restaurants and putting them in the refrigerator where now, like with our nutrients, they'll get locked into a status and they'll live for quite a bit of time.

We weren't getting that result initially. And it was something that we figured, maybe it was a lack of nutrient. And I would have to say that, after all of this time that I would say it is the lack of nutrients. initially that had our trays looking so weak. once we started adding more nutrients, to that actual mix, we noticed that they were much more, Cool.

And, that they actually had a better flavor. we definitely don't use, the amount of nutrient that you would use to try to grow out a full plant, but we do put enough in there where you can notice the difference, flavor profile is pretty outstanding.

Diego: [00:17:17] And would that tea that you're adding, it's, microbially active in the media itself. It's sterile, right? The start?

Joey: [00:17:25] Essentially.

Diego: [00:17:27] Okay.So essentially sterile, you're not adding any organic matter to the mix, like rice hulls, like you alluded to before. Do you have any sort of mold issues on the soil or anything like that were fungus issues that come in either on the quar or. Via some sort of interaction between the car and the nutrient solution.

Joey: [00:17:50] We haven't had any issues. If something goes into their germination, area, and stays in a little too long, if we don't get proper germination rates, either based on temperatures or even the seed isn't as viable as it should have been. then we can run into like maybe the beginnings of mold starting to begin, but we ran into that issue with, Coco quar media, as it should be considered soilless.

He is in the beginning. we don't see it as often now because we have a stronger hold of our environment. I think as well as even the amount of seed that we plant. there's so many, the variables that go into that, as time has gone on, we've definitely learned. And are still learning how much seeds to plant. There's just so many variables with that.

Diego: [00:18:39] I'm sure you guys are buying quar in quantity for as many trays you're doing all week. How does that compare in price to say a pre-mixed seed startings?

Joey: [00:18:50] so relatively inexpensive compared to the soils as Joey pulls your earlier apps from the hydroponic business. So actually run a retail location. And so we sell, pre-mix soils. We sell straight up Coco quar. The pre-mix soils are always more expensive than the coco quar is. And even though we're adding in amendments and nutrients, we still feel that like our price point is a little bit lower than what we would spend on your typical typically charged soil. The fox farm product or something like that.

Diego: [00:19:27] And knowing you're familiar with that industry, and you run the shop, what advice would you have for somebody who wants to make a nutrient rich tea? Like you have, I've walked into those stores and it's like walking into toys R us, when you're a kid, there's tons of bags. There's a lot of colors, there's all sorts of unique stuff and it can get overwhelming very fast. I feel like some of the claims can be overwhelming on the product.

Some of the stuff is pretty expensive relative to the quantity that you're getting for the average person to who's growing microgreens or growing veg crops and wants to make a tea what process would you give them to say, look for these types of things or avoid these types of things?

Jerome: [00:20:16] The first thing I would remember I would think about is, and always remember is a little goes a long way and you never want to overdo it. So look at the packaging and you say these are the recommended dosages, but always keep in the back of your mind that the people that are recommending it are also selling you the product.

They want you to use a good quantity of it. So that way you're constantly buying more. Joey said earlier, we use a very, you think of our tea grouping this heavy, target group, but it's actually very light, very, everything is very minimal because of what we're working with.

another thing is, as far as creating a tea or a brew of some sort is hit your basis, you have to know that you want to put something in there that can help your path uptake. You want something that is going to help, alleviate any nitrate bills or any sort of salt buildup in our case. And you're also going to want to just focus on. What basics does that plant need, especially if you're doing organically or whether, even if you're doing it with the assault based nutrients.

Diego: [00:21:27] When you think about growing microgreens that, you're selling them live uncut. They're not living to be that old. They're not going to bear fruit. They're not going to develop a ton of above ground bio-mass.

When you're designing a nutrient profile for your tea, what are the main bases you're trying to hit there? cause they're just, they're not going to take up a lot of nitrogen and stuff like that, cause they're not big. So what are you trying to get into that brew to make them healthy?

Jerome: [00:22:03] So we want a very minimal amount of nitrogen, very trace amount of nitrogen. We also want to introduce the bacteria that is actually going to help uptake that nitrogen. And, that's very important also. again, going to the micronutrient, having a very small dose it's actually hangs the flavor because when we first started, we weren't using the micro, micronutrient as much into our group. And we started playing with a little bit more. It actually started to change the flavors and our microgreens went from, having some flavor where you'd be like, Oh, that tastes, that's a taste from when we started adding in, different micronutrients. We're like, Oh wow, this is actually changing the flavors of this product.

And then when we actually introduced a little bit more enzymes. It made them more complex and brought up the natural flavor of the plant, which we were very, we were impressed with. And our customers have been very impressed with because normally, they're like, Oh, I've tasted my microgreens and they all taste the same. There's definitely flavor profiles that we're hitting

Diego: [00:23:17] With a large crop variety like you have 30 plus varieties. Do you mix up one batch of tea that goes across the board or are you saying, this batch of tea goes to these trays and this batch of tea goes to these trays?

Joey: [00:23:31] Generally. so we do in two processes. So we actually mix our coco with some dry ingredients ourselves. So we, and that's basically where the charge of some of the nutrient charges coming from the liquid form of that, which is. Can be fed to certain plants and not fed system, other plants, depending on how they performed. Those are fed that's fed separately and differently.

Diego: [00:23:57] You're definitely it's again, know your crop and then know the nutrients that crop requires.

Joey: [00:24:03] And it just takes trial and error. And we, we've had plenty of error, lately we've been experiencing any successes and it's almost because I guess it's the principle of organics or go to no till soil or something, Where you want to have a very one organic face. And you can, anything that you put in that no-till soil is going to grow considerably well. And that's what we're trying to hit. We're just trying to hit those points where everything's gonna grow really well. and reach those spectrums.

There's certain crops that we haven't had successes with, that we're working on and we're developing like, okay, maybe it needs a little bit more of this or a little less of that. And so there are certain tweaks to certain parts, certain crops.

Diego: [00:24:45] maybe this is a basic question. But do you have any general preference over buying this stuff in a powder form or liquid form if it's available in both?

Joey: [00:24:56] I always prefer powder because my feeling is if you're buying something as a liquid, you're paying for water.

Diego: [00:25:02] And then thinking of the quar, you mentioned. When we first started chatting highest salinity content and you've added some stuff to the tea or to the quar to help break down that salt. For people that might be experiencing that problem, what have you found there that works?

Joey: [00:25:22] Look at enzymes research, enzymes are a great soil remediators. Research soil remediation. How can how can we fix, agriculturally speaking on large plots? That's actually how I found, what enzyme was going to work or help us. And, it ended up working out really well, but definitely enzymes seems to be the way that you would break down salts.

Diego: [00:25:46] Yeah, I love the nutrient talk here. So that's one part of the process that you guys have to go from seed to deliver a live trade to a customer. Can you walk through a typical week in terms of your planting cycle? I've talked to Chris Alon on the show. I think you guys have listened to some of those episodes.

You responded to one of the call-outs that I had in there. And, he was on a very set routine, we're harvesting every, I don't remember the days, but let's say Tuesday, Thursday. When you're delivering live trays, you essentially now have a, I'll say a shelf stable product that you could bring to the customer for people considering this live tray, the management of your planting, and you're in your quote, harvesting, which is delivery. How does that look?

Joey: [00:26:37] Wow. initially we just planted randomly and would hope for the right results. As time went on, we really learned that we had to pretty much plant every day and we had to learn our plant cycles and, it was, it took close to six months to get where we're at now.

and. The ideas is, if I have a crop that I'm expecting to sell on Tuesdays, that crop is planted 10 days before. So we have a calendar, that we go by religiously and it's dated with when that crop goes in and it's dated when that crop comes out. And when those crops are expected, we do try to plant at least 10 to 15% more than what's expected of us from our customers.

So only, so that way, if we do get a new customer, we have that product. I think that was one of the things that we learned, going into this business is that the majority of microgreen producers would only have one or two harvest days. And it just a lot of the restaurants, they would just look past them for that reason.

and we really tried to resolve that issue and the only way we could figure to do it was. Bye. the two of us just Bearing down and planting and harvesting every single day. And if we do plant too much, we signed up for a couple of farmer's markets and we make sure that we have those avenues to get rid of that product.

I have to say we've been really lucky. we don't have refrigerators. We don't really store product. like hoping that we're going to sell it, if that product isn't going to go out to a restaurant it's going to a farmer's market.

Diego: [00:28:26] I was looking at your site and you got, have a lot of varieties listed there that you grow. You've mentioned that it's over 30, on a typical week. How many of those do you have in production at any given time?

Joey: [00:28:38] Every single one of them, we have at least two trays of every single crop that we grow. So we can ensure that we have that product in case it were ordered. then again, we have some that we grew close to 40 trays of, and that's all on demand.

it's something that we've taken really close note of. And, it was really the only way we could. Find that we as just the two of us could grow as a business and compete with some of these bigger, bigger farms.

Diego: [00:29:06] So thinking 80, 20, there's the crops that you grow, 40 trays of you're moving a lot of those. And then there's the 20% of the ones that you're trying to keep them on hand. And have two trays. So in case somebody orders that you sell it, I get that. It makes sense. You have the variety. That's your niche. That's how you guys are marketing. How often would you say you're stuck with a tray at the end of a week cycle, even after a farmer's market where you're doing something else with that tray, that's not a sell? Composting it or whatever you do with it.

Joey: [00:29:47] No, I'd like to initially, we have lots of product. As of late, we've been selling out at every single farmer's market. if we do have anything left and sometimes it's because we want to take it ends up, we feed our families. my family just absolutely loves them and it feels really good to be able to give them some, such a nutrient dense food.

in that respect, I, we don't really ever look for any avenues it's been, we've been pretty blessed in that area, to be honest. and I should give us a little credit though. A lot of it is diligent planning. this business has put a friendship to a test. There's no doubt about it. It's well worth it. And, we're definitely happy to be here.

Diego: [00:30:27] Yeah. So you solve the waste problem. That would be one of my big worries going in is we're going to grow all the stuff, we can't move it all. And then we're going to be stuck with one tray of micro basil or something like that, but yeah.

Give yourself credit. you found ways to move those trays that might otherwise be sitting around. Of your crops that you grow. What would you say? The top three most popular?

Joey: [00:30:54] Peas, cilantro or mustard, lettuces. And yeah, those are definitely the three best sellers.

Diego: [00:31:03] Cilantro. It's one that consistently comes up is tough to grow when it comes to microgreens, I've heard many growers say that. What's your key to growing it?

Joey & Jerome: [00:31:10] It drove me crazy in the beginning, actually. And I have to say everything you read, you read it likes water, you read it. Doesn't like water. and I think reading's super important when you're trying to brush up on your knowledge of this, but at the same time, Jerome would attest to this. There's nothing like actually getting your hands dirty and testing it over and over again, because I am actually a deep believer that.

It depends on who's caring for those plants on how those pants are cared for and how they're made happy. And Jerome would make those plants happy in a different way than I would. I just, for some reason, it seems like with all of the, you read and all of the information that you gathered, just everybody has their own take on it.

I think the best thing that we did for figuring out cilantros I stopped looking online. because I was getting too much information about, like Joey said this much water, not enough water. and we just started playing with it and started thinking about it really logically, okay, how are we going to grow this?

So that way the seeds actually fall off the path because we would grow it when we finally were able to get the crop to grow. Healthy and have a nice full tray. It was full of seeds. And so it was like, how are we gonna get these seeds off other than spending two hours picking them off by hand? Exactly.

Because the chefs that we deal with didn't want to pick them up. so they wanted us to bring them without the seeds. Finally, we found the right combination and we figured out how to draw them where the seeds do not stay on the plant. And it took. At least eight months to figure that out

Diego: [00:32:53] For taking on crops like cilantro, that are challenging to grow. You figure an eight month learning curve. Now certain crops are going to be easier, your stables, your sunflower, your peas, but still growing 30 crops. That is a big learning curve.

How would you advise somebody to take on that many people props. how have you guys systematized it or are you just a superstar? Like I can manage the knowledge base around 30 crops individually. is there some way that somebody could hack that and say, okay, here's how I could try and grow starting from zero. Now I'm going to grow 30 all at once and then try and progress each one of them to get them towards optimal at the same time?

Joey: [00:33:41] The key to that is having a stable environment to go in. like we were actually doing indoor gardening, so we use led lighting and we have skylights in there as well. So we used some natural light, but having a, at a particular stable, level constantly is important. Having the temperature at a stable constant is very important.

And that actually allows a lot of these crops to flourish. I would say, yes, we do. We have a large amount of knowledge. as far as, if we keep everything stable, we'll things should grow. There are outliers in there. cause Joey works a lot with the chefs and so they say, Hey, we want this particular product.

And now the challenge is to introduce a new product into our system. Is it going to work? How's it going to work? do we need another environment for it? So those are the challenges. right now with those 30 cops that we picked, they work really well in the environment that we�ve achieved. Then I think that's the biggest thing there, the environment.

Diego: [00:34:50] When you look at your grow room itself, what are you doing there that you think makes it a good environment? You mentioned stable humidity. I'm assuming temperature's pretty constant. What equipment do you have in there to maintain that environment?

Joey: [00:35:06] Air conditioning, we don't necessarily need even. We try to run our lights, our lifecycle. It was actually at night most of the time. So we are hearing in New Mexico or in Santa Fe, New Mexico. we have there, we have warm days and very cold nights. So it minimizes the amount of air conditioning that we need. So it helps save on electricity. And then also we're a very dry climate, but in this particular environment, we do edification.

Diego: [00:35:35] In terms of LED lighting. you guys sound like you're people have done a lot of research into different things. You run a store. What advice would you give people when sourcing out LEDs to grow microbes?

Joey: [00:35:49] Something that's gonna be more full spectrum? I actually prefer an led. That's just a white light rather than, we've all seen those like disco lights, the led lighting. Then they're trying to hit. Tons of spectrum. We're trying to stay right in the right, maybe like a 6,000 Kelvin spectrum where it's more of a white light. It's more of a vegetative type of spectrum.

I think that's important for LEDs rather than trying to hit a flowering cycle of flowering led, which would be more like the 2,900 Kelvin spectrum. I think. Six to the vegetative ones. They're actually easier to work under because they're not crazy color lighting.

We have experimented with bloom led spectrums on different shelving different areas. and sometimes it does bring out a little bit more color in the greens. It will change the color a little bit, but we prefer the vegetative spectrum.

Diego: [00:36:48] You mentioned earlier, you're growing vertically. And I'm thinking with LEDs, what's the system look like, do you have to just have vertical shelving and then an led light on each shelf or something different?

Joey: [00:36:59] Yeah, it's based to reduce rolling vertical shelves with led. there's we use two different LEDs, just one strip light, as well as, Some rope lighting as well. Actually, it's like a type of rope lighting. And then the other one is actually a T5 fixture to be exact. And then with an led bulb inside it. So it replaces a fluorescent bulb because we want to be able to use less water and actually produce less heat

Diego: [00:37:28] With all the crops that you're growing in the system here. What's one that you typically don't hear people growing as a microgreen, but you found it pass on the customer surprisingly well, or go over to customers surprisingly well?

Joey: [00:37:45] I have to say, I think the majority of the, all of the shiso�s is definitely something that, the majority of the restaurants hadn't been, we, I think we're doing about five varieties of shiso right now. And, It's definitely something that they're very into. If you never had the opportunity to try a red shiso or a, Oh, excuse me.

Red Perilla AKA shiso. it's amazing. The flavor profile is all over the place. It dances in your mouth with cumin, coriander and cinnamon. It's definitely one of those, people really enjoy it. But then again, there's also, we have an amazing indigenous crop to the area that we grow a nice hyssop, which is just a sweet, a nice flavor through and through.

It's probably one of the most incredible mints I've ever tasted. I definitely think that the diversity of our crop, the, of what we're growing, it usually wows the chefs because there's so much for them to choose from. I'm not just showing up with one or two things and hopefully they can work.

I can actually ask them what they would like or what they're cooking or what they're going to be doing. And I can make suggestions and play with a lot of the product that we have.

Diego: [00:38:58] So your knowledge coming out of the culinary world really helps rather than giving them a static sheet and saying, you pick, you're having a conversation. What are you doing what could you use, are you looking for these types of flavors and then, the flavor profiles of everything that you're growing well enough that you can fire off suggestions and say, try this.

Jerome: [00:39:18] Absolutely. I think it's essential for this business. It's important to be able to grow and get these things, looking as beautiful as you can, but at the same time, if you don't know what you're selling, it makes it really difficult, especially with microgreens.

yeah, they've been around for a while, but it's still, a lot of people are still learning about it. it's not something that the chefs see every day, they usually come in and containers, from at least in New Mexico, they come in and containers from outside of the state. So their selections, just the amount of selection that they have just isn't there.

Diego: [00:39:51] What about in terms of crop size, how tall you're letting them grow, how big you're letting the say truly is grow, or just keeping them with your lead-ins. Do you try and standardize that, knowing that you're selling to a bunch of restaurants or do you cater to different restaurants and different chefs?

Joey: [00:40:11] You definitely catered to different restaurants and different chefs. one of the things that we noticed real quick is there certain, crops that are great for the farmer's market because we can get them seven to 10 days, others, they take up to 30 to 45 days and some chefs want us to have a larger, true meat.

And in order to obtain that, like we have to take into consideration what we're doing. Do we need to plant more seeds, less seed? so we definitely are crop specific towards chefs. can we always accommodate them immediately? No. usually takes some time, but we're always willing to work with them and it makes our job interesting. Or, I come back to the garden and drones, like you said, what.

Diego: [00:40:54] Can you talk a little bit about what you're giving the chef and by that, you're selling live, uncut microgreens in the tray to a chef. So when a chef places, an order with you, what are you showing up with? Is this a standard 10, 20 flat with a crop on it?

Joey: [00:41:14] It's typically a 10 by 10. and I wish to say that the majority of what we did was actually orders. We pretty much actually just have a schedule to show up on a particular day to that restaurant and the majority of the restaurants that we deal with will pick from the products that we have that day.

Diego: [00:41:34] Okay. So you're bringing like a van with everything in it.

Joey: [00:41:38] Pretty much. Yeah. and it's risky. you asked earlier, how do we stay on top of it? it's a weekly, it's a weekly thing with us. We have to reassess what this person bought today, why he bought it, if he's going to be using it again, those are all things that we take into consideration.

So the amount of fluctuation in the quantity of our specific crops varies sometimes from week to week. If a chef does call me and ask for a specific order, we don't send out any trays that, as we wouldn't say aren't perfect. you, there's nothing toppled over. There's not a corner that's missed.

We really strive to deliver that, �Wow. That's a perfect looking tray,� and that's yeah, it's a 10 by 10 flat sometimes. I have a couple restaurants they'll order, close to nine, 10 flats, one for one order and a couple of times a week actually.

Diego: [00:42:33] And this was a slotted flat that they were actually grown in and you deliver it as the slotted flat, and then they put it wherever they put it and worry about watering it in anything that drains through.

Joey: [00:42:45] No, I mean that definitely, each the way that each crop's going to be taking care of, is going to be different. Radish will have them just throw that in the refrigerator right away. some products, I prefer to have them stay out because they have, they don't grow as fast there.

Healthy enough to where they're going to last for a week or two out, I know our basil, we had a chef that was running a test on it. It lasted almost two months and it didn't look perfect, but he was also letting it completely wilt. And then reconstituted, like re watering it.

I walked in a few times, there's no way that thing's coming back and it was alive the next day. Every day, we're paying attention to what those crops do. So we, our suggestions are that goes in the fridge. This has to stay in the dark. It's a rundown of the product that they're getting that day.

And, these chefs that they ordered a different product, then it's a rundown on that care. Cilantro may need extra water that day. The peas may never need any water. those are all, at each product is different. Product is definitely different. And then there's some chefs that just can't take care of plants. And those are the chefs that, you tell them to stick them in the fridge, and hopefully there'll be okay if he can remember to water it. Great, if not, then he's just not going to have that longevity, but the ones who can take care of them, they last, sometimes we were running into the problem when we were growing in 10, by 20 flats, they were lasting for too long and our customers were calling us once a month. And that was problematic.

Diego: [00:44:22] Yeah. I guess that's in one standpoint, that's a good problem to have in terms of, we have a quality product here that's going to last for you. You're not going to get waste out of it, but I get the need to have the cycle product for the crops that are sitting out for, say, long time. Like they're going to water. Are you giving them a bottom tray?

Joey: [00:44:43] Yes, absolutely. And we're lucky enough chefs in the majority of the restaurants that we deal with, they all return the trays that we give them. So it comes with the bottom tray, which holds the preparator tray with the media and the actual plants in them.

They still bottom water. We always try to make it a point to remind them don't water from the top. Cause it does do a little bit of damage to them. And then it's also, it ruins the longevity of the product as well.

Diego: [00:45:09] Do you think you get a premium in terms of price by selling it in the tray living versus if you had taken that tray before you show it up and cut it and give it to them in some sort of say a clam shell?

Joey: [00:45:21] And by premium, do you mean like maybe a better price than...?

Diego: [00:45:26] A better price, yeah.

Joey: [00:45:27] I think when we were weighing everything out by the tray, we were actually hitting. About what the costs were for those restaurants in those four rounds, clam shells. and that was how we gauged our price. Initially, you started cutting everything, waited out, see what the entire tray wait.

we just figured it was if we wanted to get. X amount of dollars out of that tray, we needed to know what the weight was. And that's the only reason we did that initially is because we were considering selling them package like that, but then it just ended up trickling into this. Oh, okay. we want this out of this tray and that's what we're going to get.

so yeah, I guess we do get a premium price out of it, I also feel that they get a premium product. It's, it's pretty hard to argue. And with a microgreen tray, that's been sitting in the kitchen in a refrigerator for over a week and that chef can look at it and just be like, wow, this thing is still beautiful. You know what I mean? It's pretty hard to, it's pretty hard to argue with

Diego: [00:46:31] and I've never worked in a kitchen from a chef standpoint. Is it a value? Is there some excitement there to be able to literally just cut off what you need and leave the rest versus taking a pinch out of a bag or a clamshell?

Joey: [00:46:46] Absolutely. It just I think in some ways it's like them being out on the field and being able to click it off and it's just, there's, there is a feeling there, like you're a little bit more one with the earth, I don't know. I do know that the chefs love having them around.

I've I haven't personally experienced a chef asking us to cut them. He wants to do that himself. And sometimes it's the, yeah. yeah, they definitely love cutting them themselves.

Diego: [00:47:15] On your delivery run, is that when you pick up the old empty trays and then I'm assuming you're able to compost that material or use it for outside crops, and then you can reuse those trays?

Joey: [00:47:28] Yes. we are currently in the process of starting our first outdoor grow this year and all of the quar that we got back from those restaurants, we use, in our gardens.

Diego: [00:47:41] What about from a delivery standpoint? One of the things that Chris mentioned in a past show, they're delivering by bike as the difficulty of delivering live trays.

So one, you have things you can't stack. There's no easy way to pack them. You have plants that are growing up. You don't want them to topple over and, get jostled, and ruin some of the presentation that you guys are striving for. How are you delivering any sort of quantity of these and making sure they get there in to the end user and the state that you want them to be in?

Joey: [00:48:19] We purchased lots of coolers. we actually built little shelving units inside of coolers, in the summer summertime, it allows us the ability to be able to put ice packs in there. We need to keep these cool. And in the winter time we can actually just set them in the cooler and send them on their way.

that was really the only way that we had. We've been able to figure it out as of yet. However, we just recently purchased a van and we're hoping to get a little refrigeration unit in the back at some point. But, Jerome and I, the way we set up this business, we have just been growing bit by bit.

we're constantly investing in new equipment and just eyeballing. What's going to be the best thing for us to do. And actually transportation's one of those things that's next on our list. So hopefully we can get like a prefabricated rack system or something that will be able to fit all of those in and make our life a lot easier.

Diego: [00:49:19] Did the trays have lids when you deliver them or are they just open?

Joey: [00:49:22] They're just open. we take them open. they're yeah, no, they're just open. We have talked to some distribution centers that had wanted us to box them so they can stack them. so if we ever move in that route, that would be something that we would have to do.

But, as of right now the product it's actually pretty incredible. It holds its own. It's a very healthy product, so we don't really. Like jostling in the car, doesn't really seem to affect them

Diego: [00:49:53] now looking at your site and you guys have a really nice-looking web page here, urbanrebelfarms.com. A lot of the crops are short, so they're not going to fall over, anyway, but one thing I see tied up, maybe nasturtiums. Is that something you do with the taller leggy or crops? You have a nice piece of twine around the trade to keep them all tight together?

Joey: [00:50:15] Absolutely. Yeah, it was, it actually started with the peas that we were initially growing. That's why we started doing that. there are certain crops that there's just nothing you can do because they do much taller. However, with peas, we actually, we searched and searched or. Each specific type of T a P that would stack on top of itself, rather than grow tall. So that's, those are also things that we do to try and make sure that our product is always going to stay looking nice.

We, if we like a product and it's not quite doing what we want, we'll look for another, variety of that product and see if we can make that work for us.

Diego: [00:50:53] with all the varieties that you've tested in your culinary knowledge. Has there been stuff you've grown that. You can't sell, like the chefs don't want it or they don't like it, or the taste doesn't come out right. And I'll throw it at Jerome too, from a growing side is there's stuff that like, you just can't figure out or to grow it. It's so much of a hassle. It's not worth it.

Joey: [00:51:15] I think with some of the sheets, those, when we first started messing with them, it was difficult as far as getting proper germination rates and figuring out what they need.

as far as the chefs go, Joey has a lot more experience with the chefs than I do. He has more interaction with them. there are certain crops, some particular sheets that didn't grow very well for us. so we actually dial it in and. No. and starting to figure out what is, what actually worked with our system.

And so we've actually dialed those down and you can see those on our website, the ones that we're actually working with as far as, a crop that we've grown and trying to sell to some of these chefs, I think we've been fortunate enough to not really have this. Like dogmatic point of view, like we're going to grow this and that we're going to sell it.

We've always if something tasted like crap, we just didn't continue on. we've tried growing a few cucumbers cause we wanted to get, a nice cucumber micro green and wow. Some cucumber tastes horrible. but, and it ends there, there's crops that I love that I wish we could sell that we don't like salad.

Bernay. it's just one of those that I just absolutely love, but for the chefs seem to enjoy it, but they never want to buy it. And so it's just, we've stopped growing it.

Diego: [00:52:34] Is that one of the ones on your side? I know you have some listed as, special order-only those are ones that you could grow, but you're not going to grow on a regular basis because you don't want to be stuck with them?

Joey: [00:52:45] Yeah. We don't want to be stuck with them, but not only that, the salad Bernie in particular, that seed is really hard to come by. so it's more of a preservation type of thing, cause we're hoping to maybe grow it out door. if anything, just for us.

Diego: [00:52:59] Can you talk a little bit, Joey, about your approach when you go to solicit a new restaurant and try and sell them product, you, the way you described the product and I've gone on and you know it you've been in the industry and from a farm standpoint or from a sales standpoint, You have a pretty big arsenal of stuff you can approach them with, having all of these different crops. So when you approach them and what have you found works in terms of getting your product into their kitchen?

Joey: [00:53:34] Initially, I faced a lot of rejection. When we were going in with clam shells and cut microgreens, I think I had one customer for about the first three months we were in business. Now going in with living trays, that is my biggest arsenal right there I go in, I usually, depending on the type of restaurant that I'm walking into, I pick the product that I'm going to walk in with my hands in my hands. And I go from there, I kinda just, make sure, one, that I'm not intruding on daily business in the restaurant. And then two, just try to make it as approachable as possible, give a list, let them know what we're doing and let them see it. The product, really it sells itself. It makes my life so easy to walk into a restaurant and just say, Hey, look at what we're growing. And then conversation just seems to take off from there.

it pretty much just happens organically once I get into that restaurant. it wasn't something that happened initially, though. It's definitely, it's due to the product and Instagram. yeah. I couldn't talk to you how much Instagram helps. I caught on real quick that there was a tight knit community here in New Mexico that was paying attention to what the other chefs were doing.

And so I started playing on that, taking photos of some of our food, some of the food that I made at home, taking photos of the greens in their environment and the garden. And, I've. Probably generated close to 10 accounts from Instagram

Diego: [00:55:12] When you're the farmer. And you're trying to get into that conversation as a metaphor there on Instagram. Is it, are you tagging restaurants? Like how are you, how are they seeing you or is there a local, Albuquerque food? What did you do you think to get them to pay attention?

Joey: [00:55:32] No, to be honest, I. I have no idea other than just taking the photos that we were taking. I didn't do any initial tagging.

there would be some things like I would hit like clean eating or, I think a lot of it actually, maybe what started catching on, I was actually posting what the product was. So I, wasn't only taking a photo of my microgreens is like, this is a Faisal micro green. And, I think cause a lot of times people think, Oh, it's a sprout and.

It ends there, like you don't stop, you stop realizing like it could be either a vegetable, a green or an earth, I think that. Instagram as a tool it's super, you actually have to interact with people in it. you have to somewhat understand where they're coming from and you have to step into that realm.

have I been cooking a lot more than I ever did before? Probably. And a lot of it's just as a sales pitch, Hey, look at what you can do. And initially it started out. Those were more For the customers that we had at the farmer's market, they had no idea what to do with microgreens. they get it.

They're like, Oh, this is great, but what do I do with it? And yeah, I wish I could be more specific about that, but I don't really have a game plan when I go in, as far as insight into Instagram, I do definitely try to get a feeling for. No, maybe the establishment that I'm trying to approach,

Diego: [00:56:59] You hit on something there. It's one thing to open up a catalog and say, here's all the seeds I can grow. I'm going to grow them as microgreens. And then I'm going to try and sell them. Is it, I know how to use it, so then we're going to grow it or is it let's try and grow it. And then when we grow it, we'll figure out some good culinary uses for it?

Joey: [00:57:20] It's the latter we're gonna grow it. And then we're going to fill it, figure out some good culinary uses for it because the majority of these products, I had never had the opportunity use before, taste any of those things. we see catalog books read through. Read interesting flavor profiles and go from there.

And the other thing is I am not afraid to ask the chefs what they want, what they're looking for. because I do not know everything in the kitchen or anything even close to knowing anything in the kitchen. So they're my guide in that respect, I definitely always have my ears open when speaking to them, I pay attention to.

What's going on in that kitchen. And I look at their menus, actually. That's another thing that's super important because I think when you can understand where that chef is trying to go with his menu, then you can get ideas on what you might want to grow cause in this business, at least the way that I'm seeing it is we always have to be changing.

I can't. Allow ourselves to stay stagnant and just be like, okay, we're growing kale, arugula broccoli. And not that there's anything wrong with those crops. I love them. but we always have to be thinking what's next, I feel like.

Diego: [00:58:34] When you have the more exotic crops. Do you ever just give them to chefs to say, try this, tell me what you think. say you're testing a new crop, ABC, and you can play around with it, but then the other way to get some research would be here's a chef. I work with a lot. Hey, here's this 10 by 10 tray. Let me know what you think. What can you use this for? does this make sense?

Joey: [00:58:58] You do. Yeah. it doesn't happen that often, but there are times that I do, I will do that. If I just don't know what to do with it, I'm baffled then yet I have a few chefs that I really like to go to and say, Hey, check this out. but at the same time, I really tried not to make that a habit either because I really want to keep. That relationship between me and this chef, as far as our transactions go, I'm very business like I know that there's a mutual gain in some of that, but at the same time, I don't know.

I guess I'd have to think about how, what I'm trying to say there, but. We do. We definitely do give the chefs some of that product to work with there. that does help us a little bit. But at the same time, I feel like we've done enough research where it's not really something that we necessarily need to do.

Diego: [00:59:55] What about with initial sales? When you go into a restaurant and you're showing them the live tray, do you generally give them sample product to use. And then follow up or are you just selling them verbally? And if they take it, they do. If they don't, but you're not giving them product.

Joey: [01:00:15] I typically don't, we don't usually give a product out the first time we go I go in, I show them what it's about, I'll let them taste some, like maybe I'll take an extra trade and I'll cut some off and allow them to taste it. But, just leaving it, there isn't something we typically do because the way, it's hard, cause that's almost a whole week's worth of product.

And for me, like I'd rather be able to taste a few chefs with that, then give them that entire tray and then cutting it. It's just not the same product any longer. So they don't really get to see the longevity. I will say that because of the tight-knit community, as far as chefs go here, a lot of, they all talk amongst each other.

And I have gotten a lot of new accounts because chefs can't praise enough how long our product is lasting them and how happy they are with the quality of it.

Diego: [01:01:13] No, on one side, you're selling the chefs, but you also sell at the farmer's market. How do you view farmer's market sales relative to your.

Restaurant sales. it sounds like chefs in restaurants. They're your main market. Are you growling products specifically for farmer's market or does farmer's market just absorb whatever. Didn't go to restaurants.

Joey: [01:01:37] We grow stuff specifically for farmer's market. However, we also absorb some of the product that we didn't sell at the restaurant.

So we typically don't like to send out the majority of our high end product to the farmer's market. we'd like to save those for the chefs, but if it's getting to that point where we're like, we're going to lose this next week, or then we'll take that out. And it's nice because then we get lots of reactions from the customers at the farmer's market.

wow, this is a new product. We haven't seen this before. and again, that's one of the reasons the farm farmer's market's been doing so well for us is because we do have that diverse product. We're constantly bringing stuff new and fresh, and it keeps a lot of our customers at the market extremely happy. No. I think that's, it's key. You always have to keep people on their toes. You don't really want them to know what to expect out of you.

Diego: [01:02:31] At the farmer's market, how are you delivering the product to the customer there? Do you cut it out of the live tray and bag it on the spot? Are you selling whole trays? How's that working?

Joey: [01:02:41] Yeah, we do some, we do sell some, a whole trays there. we get a few chefs who haven't dealt with this before that'll come in and buy some trays or a few customers that like to take the trays home. but the majority of them, we actually do a fresh cut salad at the farmer's market.

it's almost like a salad bartender of sorts. Go through and they'll have a salad bowl with hosted 20 different products and it's all cut right there for them. and placed in like eco, SIS, renewable recyclable containers.

Diego: [01:03:17] So your display, all the product out. And then they'll say, give me what you think. And you can clip a little bit of whatever and make a pound.

Joey: [01:03:26] pretty much, we actually don't weigh anything out. we have three different sizes of containers and we pretty much just fill them up. the idea there is that we have too many products and in order to weight, each one to the right price point would take forever.

so we try to convey that message to our customers like. everything's going to weigh a little bit different in these containers, especially if they're going through. Cause sometimes we get customers actually more often than not. We get customers who know what they want and they guide us through and that's something that you really don't get anywhere else.

whereas, sometimes my, whoever will be there working with me will. We'll cut premixed salads, and those will all weigh the same, but it's just, those are much easier to control than something that they're going out and handpicking.

Diego: [01:04:25] In general, what do you sell in microgreens for, at the farmer's market on a dollar per weight?

Joey: [01:04:32] On average, between all of the products, it's probably about $50 a pound. On average.

Diego: [01:04:40] And if you go over to the restaurant side, where's your price point there say, average?

Joey: [01:04:44] because of the higher end product on average, closer to a hundred dollars a pound, but then again, see there's the weight issue, at a hundred dollars a pound, the product's much smaller. It's not going to be like your peas or your radishes. they're definitely a more delicate product and you just don't have the weight. with those about a hundred dollars a pound, but, we sell our trays. It's, that's just a guess. It would be hard to say, without going over all of our figures on what each tray weighed out on the cut and then what we're selling it at per pound. If that makes any sense. I'd like to. So like at the farmer's market, if I don't have a scale, I like to section off the tray as I would sell it to the restaurant. So say I'm selling the tray for $30. A quarter of that tray is going to be, seven, whatever that is a quarter of $30 comes to $7 in some sense.

Diego: [01:05:44] With the crops that you're selling the restaurants and what are the highest value crops, just to show people, this is what's possible. You may not move a lot of them weight-wise and you may not sell a lot of trays, but what are like your top. Highest dollar products per tray.

Joey: [01:06:02] I would say the red shisos. And if we can get our red veined sorrel to completely, to pull through, that would be one of them as well, but the shiso products and, the sorrow. And it's usually because of seed costs though. if we. we charge a little bit more for it. but we're making about the same amount of money off of something like that. It's just that the seed costs are higher. So the price of the trays going to cost a little bit more.

Diego: [01:06:31] with sea glass, really high on some of these specialty crops. What are you trying to have your costs be into each tray? Are you trying to double up more than double up,

Joey: [01:06:42] more than double up? I think that you would ideally want to hit around about 300 percenters, a markup of about 300% because for Jerome and I, there's only the two of us.

And so I've unfortunately heard from a lot of farmers that, time doesn't cost you anything. And in our case, they were both real fathers, we're husbands. And so time costs us a lot. And so all of that, definitely gets cut into the expense along with driving, packaging,

Diego: [01:07:18] And you're doing 200 plus trays a week of the 10 by 10 trays?

Joey: [01:07:22] Yes, sir. About, I think we're about two 20, two 30 right now.

Diego: [01:07:27] And is that enough to support both you guys full time?

Joey: [01:07:30] Not as of right now, no. In fact, it's, this business is actually, we've set it up to just be growing. so this isn't actually providing an income for either of us at this point. We have, We made the decision to, work, to make this business actually grow. So every penny that we make gets put back into the business, but we've got bear conditioners with Bob. Dan's very supportive.

Diego: [01:07:57] What about in terms of time commitment? So you're selling the restaurants. You're delivering, you're growing the product. How much time? Are you guys putting into this a week? Is it while you may not be getting paid because you're recycling the money back into the business? Is it a full-time job for both of you guys?

Joey: [01:08:17] Yeah, absolutely. more than a full-time job. I would have to say that the one thing about this business is that to get where we are right now, we've sacrificed a lot.

we sacrificed a lot of sleep. We worked seven days a week. sometimes our days start at four o'clock in the morning and don't end till eight o'clock. is it something that I think is absolutely healthy? No. but we're definitely, we're getting to the point where we can. See a future and hopefully have some people move in and start being able to help us.

But because we are doing so many products and we are dealing with so many people on such a, in a, in such a specific manner. It's at this point, it's really hard. I think for us to find somebody that would be able to step into these roles. at this point, like we're trying to get it there, but at this point it's, it's just the two of us.

Diego: [01:09:21] When you have a business like that, where you're selling just microgreens, at some point there's no more restaurants to sell to. And a restaurant only uses so much micro grains. How do you grow the business beyond that? Is that part of your guys' thought between growing up or behind going outside now and looking at some field crops?

Joey: [01:09:46] yeah, you bringing up an issue that we're dealing with right now.

We're definitely trying to do a little bit more product diversity. we're working on doing some edible flowers, because we do have a substantial amount of customers who enjoy the product that we grow. I think at this point, we're thinking that the way for us to be able to grow even more as a business is diversify our products.

So that's definitely our next step. we're still going to be doing a lot of the same product is what we're thinking, but in a different form. So instead of micro greens now, edible flowers, Yeah, baby vegetables, baby lettuces. Those are all on the agenda, we were hoping to get into a larger space.

I don't know if we mentioned, but only in a 200 square foot space. we've completely maxed out the room that we're in to the point where it's almost uncomfortable for the two of us to be in that room at the same time

Diego: [01:10:43] on the micro Marine side. Do you have more demand that is pushing you to grow that space?

Joey: [01:10:49] Yes. within the last couple months we've picked up quite a few more restaurants and it's gotten to the point where we were doing. three farmer's markets or two farmer's markets, but three times a week, last year. And right now we actually only have enough product for one farmer's market because we're selling out.

you just don't have the space at this point. So it's a good problem to have, but there's a problem.

Diego: [01:11:18] What about in terms of. The whole idea around the trend or the fad of microgreens. Do you find in think that there pretty stable, there'll always be some demand for microgreens, but the specific microgreens themselves are changing or do you think you're just at Albuquerque right now at a real high point for micros?

Joey: [01:11:44] Just your average consumer is becoming more educated with the nutritional value in microgreens. we do focus on the restaurant industry, but, again, like Joey said, the farmer's market, we're selling out, we're actually trying to produce more or the farmer's market because we, at this point we're not producing enough because we're, it's a five-hour shifts and we're selling out within two hours.

So I think like the, generally the consumers are starting to become more educated as far as I want this microgreen for health, Joey can attest to that. Like some of our customers come with bill debilitating diseases and they hear that microgreens can assist with that. So they bite them religiously.

The market's definitely expanding. Absolutely. The more that people become educated about microgreens in general, the busier we're going to get, but there's also the diversity of the product as well. I'm almost positive in the restaurant industry and like nineties thousands, like there weren't half the amount of microgreens been grown.

I think, you'd hear radishes, peas and sunflowers. But now some of the stuff, it's just Lamb's breath. all kinds of stuff, salad, Bernays, and heirloom lettuce. That's related to a Rose, all these things that people are trying to grow in these smaller forms.

It's constantly changing. It's a business that I think will always evolve and maybe it'll evolve into something different. But, again, I think that's why we're always trying to change with, we're not trying to stay with just the products that we do. We're always on the, out on the lookout for some new products, something else that's coming out.

Diego: [01:13:36] So as you guys continue to grow the business, both in terms of sales, in terms of space, You're doing it as a partnership. And one thing you alluded to earlier, you said earlier, was it hasn't always been easy, maintaining the friendship while running the business together. This is something I think a lot of people find themselves struggling with whether it's spouses or family members or friends, how have you guys navigated the friendship and the business thing and still stayed friends.

Joey: [01:14:10] Jerome�s pretty tolerant of me.

Jerome: Tolerance of good communication. That's the key, making sure you speak your mind and what's going on without, you can speak to somebody without raising your voice, somebody without getting emotional. and I think that's important is just being very diplomatic in a sense, and that's going to help keep the friendship together.

Diego: [01:14:37] When there's not consensus on something, Drome wants to go one way. Joey wants to go the other way. How do you arrive at something you guys can both handle? We

Joey: [01:14:48] usually go Joey's way and proven wrong. That sounds about right.

No, we do have disagreements about certain things. But, like my what's the most difficult thing for me is Joey or something that a chef wants and, okay, let's get the seed, let's get the product. Let's see what happens if we can make it work or not, and there's always, I'm always down to experiment.

So that kind of leaves things open, So I'm not. No, I'm not very close minded. I'm like, Hey, maybe that will work. Let's try this. See how it works in our system. And if it works well in our system, then we run with it. And, we have, we definitely have a box to see that we are probably gonna end up putting outside that didn't, we tried it didn't work out so well, whether I suggested, or he suggested it that's water under the bridge, we can let that go.

We're moving on. we have bigger and better things to concentrate on. We definitely, We develop the ability to just move on. It's a stressful business. There's no doubt about it. This is, it's day in and day out and it's super demanding. but Durham really hit it. Communication is essential and not being afraid to speak your mind is really important because anything can be resolved as long as you come at it from a, an honest point of view.

Diego: [01:16:14] Yeah, I love what you guys are doing. It's really unique. There's some cool stuff happening here. A lot of it, you guys have a great website, lot of cool product. I want to thank you guys for coming on today and sharing everything that you're doing for people that want to follow along with what you're doing like on Instagram and see some of the stuff you're posting, where the best places to go.

Joey: [01:16:34] Yeah. And then, our website www urban rural farms.com.

Diego: [01:16:44] There you have it. Joey haka and Jerome baka of urban rebel farms. If you want to learn more about Joey in Jerome and the innovative techniques that they're using to grow, microgreens be sure to check them out on Instagram or on their webpage. I've linked to both those in the description for this podcast episode.

And if you were doing anything unique with the way that you grow microgreens or even field crops, something that you might not have heard somebody talk about on the show, and you want to share your experience, send me an email. And maybe we can talk. I'm always looking to highlight new things on the show.

That's all for this one. Thanks for listening. Next week, I'll be back with another small scale farmer making a go of it between now and then keep hustling and crushing it and stay tuned for another episode where it's all about farming, small in farming smart.

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