I found a farm, with a ‘little’ twist…
Meet Kayla and Eric Elefson, the young farming couple behind Turtle Hare Farm’s tasty micro green mixes, tomatoes, salad greens and coming next summer- gourmet garlic!
As most really good stories go, they came to farming in a round-about, unintended way. Both take to the stage regularly. Kayla is a dancer with ‘Eclectic Edge Ensemble’, and a choreographer (White Bear Lake High School is performing her steps in their “Footloose” musical as I’m writing this post.) Eric is an actor working with Mad Munchkin Productions and the Math and Science Academy.
After a mild injury Kayla had to step away from the strenuous dance routines, and took a farming class on a whim. Both Kayla and Eric grew up on hobby farms, so it wasn’t a huge stretch. But after some soul searching and learning about “Holistic Management” they came upon micro green farming as a way to jump into farming right away- without jumping deep into debt.
Now, there’s no reason to go back. They love supplying people with organically grown, locally delivered, super fresh produce year round.
With two years under their belts they’ve already fine-tuning and weeding out some of their original practices. Switching their field of tomatoes to garlic will require many less summer hours of labor but give close to the same profit. Their outdoor garden space is only 1,400 square feet and yet it is adequate to supply the markets they serve. Working out of their home in Lakeland Township gives them the best of both worlds.
What’s the BIG deal with micro greens?
Micro greens are plants in between the stages of sprouts and baby greens- and are said to be the ‘sweet spot’ where taste meets nutrition.
Studies have shown that micro greens are loaded with nutrients, such vitamins, C, E, and K, lutein, and beta-carotene. Up to 40 fold compared to the mature leaves of the same plants! This is another well rounded article from Web MD.
Micro Greens contain up to 40 X the nutrients of their full grown plants!
These itty-bitty leaves add a crispy flavor boost to salads, sandwiches, and tacos, and pair well with warmed dishes too. Some die hard micro fans only eat them raw, as cooking does reduce some of the nutritional potency. For me, I figure I’ll eat them as they fit into my menu. Cooked or not, they are still one of the most nutrient dense foods around.
How do you grow micro greens?
Kayla and Eric have quite the set up in their home. I know, inside! Farming inside means they can keep the grow lights on year-round and keep supplying us with these good greens no matter the season. For Minnesota, where the growing season is cut off by the end of October, and doesn’t start up again until the end of April; that is a pretty darn big deal. Yes, there are other costs to growing year-round, but because of the design of their micro farm, it is space and energy efficient.
Turns out that growing these greens is easier in the Spring, Fall and Winter; with their more predictable weather trends. Summer can prove tricky with its high heat and humidity. I learned that if the air is too humid it can rot those little seeds before you blink. But, since Kayla takes immaculate care of the 150 or so trays of greens growing each week, they rarely loose a crop. And if a tray looks below their standards, she can compost that one and start a quicker sprouting variety and get back on track for the next farmer’s market or co-op drop.
The time frame of the crops are so condensed, which means every hour counts; keeping temps, moisture and nutrients at just the right levels was a steep learning curve at first. They are getting the swing of it, even with the trickier seeds like arugula.
They start with specially blended, organic soils and seeds. And now, all the roots and soils used over the last growing seasons are being added into their bedding mixes as finished compost- removing the need to haul in other composts. You know how much I love that!
Eat Your Greens
I fell in love with micro greens by adding them to the skillet with my morning eggs. There are some beautiful omelet recipes out there, but I’m a fried or scrambled kind of gal. Also, these will take your stir fry up a notch, especially the pea shoots!
Kayla’s favorite way to use microgreens: making stir fry with sunflower shoots. “I sautee them for about 30 seconds-1 minute in garlic, red pepper flakes, a little bit of oil, with a little bit of soy or coconut aminos,” she says. Eric eats his almost daily with his eggs, my kind of guy 🙂 They both agree that they make amazing pesto!
There are some way more imaginative ways to use the greens HERE. Roasted broccoli and micro green soup anyone!?! If these don’t catch your eye, BRIT+CO has gathered some micro green recipes that I’ll be trying, especially the roasted root veggie + micro greens tacos. The photos alone make my mouth water.
It’s easy being (micro) Green!
If this sounds like exactly what you need to get you through the winter, you are so in luck!
Turtle Hare Farm offers a WINTER CSA membership! They are accepting new memberships with many drop spots across the east metro, and into Minneapolis 😊
They also supply Seward Community Co-op in Minneapolis- lucky neighborhood.
One important thing to keep in mind regarding greens in the depths of a Midwest winter is how quickly vegetables lose their nutritional value. They loose up to half their nutrients in about a week, according to studies- another reason Kayla and Eric decided to grow through the winter supply customers with a Winter CSA.
I can’t wait to see what this couple comes up with next, as they work on shaping their dreams of a ‘Slow Farm Retreat”. Sign…Me…Up…
I love me some slow food,, but I love the super fast growing micro greens too. I can’t wait to dig into a bag of bright green, crispy fresh, locally grown greens in January and happily munch like its July!
What’s you favorite way to eat your micro greens?