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Marine veterans grow new businesses with microgreens

Broadway, Virginia — In the flashy light of the production space on the ground floor, Ian Young, a young Broadway-based entrepreneur, was thrilled to click on a project management software called Notion.

“It’s really great because you can tag every date,” Young said. “You can plan for a particular day. Great. That’s like the way I plan everything.”

Young harvests his products (various types of microgreens), labeling plastic pallets of efficiently stacked seeds and soil at various stages of planting in tall racks with lights. I nailed it until the day I was ready to pack and sell it.

Headquarters of his business, MicroBite Farms, Young — a transition veteran who worked in the Marine Corps — is densely planted from seeds and harvested within three weeks of more than 12 types of microgreens, greens such as broccoli and coriander. It grows on plants. Grow their first set of leaves. They are different from “bean sprouts” that grow in water.

“When I started eating these, I lost a lot of weight,” Young said. “When I got out of the Marines, I got a little fat. There are so many health benefits.”

Young, who always had a green thumb before becoming a vendor at Harrisonberg Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, selling to CrossKeys Vineyards Bistro, and offering small plant deliveries and subscriptions, was a hobby and military for four years. Their excellent nutrient content after working for.

“I love doing this. It doesn’t feel like a job to me. I love interacting with customers in the market,” says Young. “All restaurant guests are very friendly.”

These toddler versions of green plants also pack grown pepper, sweet and spicy flavors, depending on the plant. Young sells about 12 varieties that combine various varieties such as red acre cabbage, radish, sunflower, broccoli and salad mix.

“eat [salads with microgreens] It’s so tasty that it’s plain without dressing, “Young said. “You are getting such great value for your money when it comes to nutrition.”

To grow them, he begins seeding with a pallet of soil weighed with concrete blocks. Subsequent “blackout” stages encourage the plant to develop longer stems. It’s this feature that CrossKeys Vineyards’ new executive chef, Leonel Velazquez, has partnered with MicroBite as one of the first small local vendors.

“We liked his product and were excited to make it happen,” Velázquez said. “I use it for cooking and events here at the bistro. They are clean and they taste good. I like micros with larger stems and he does that.”

Young, who is currently working on a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State College, said he started selling microgreens to restaurants around State College, Pennsylvania, but the business was slow as it was launched before and after the pandemic.

“I’ve always enjoyed the idea of ​​being my boss, but when I actually do it, it’s really hard. I’m always learning and sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I will do it, “Young said.

Young said being in the Marine Corps helped develop the “self-management” needed to run his business full-time, as it is important to be prepared on time. ..

“I don’t think I was able to do this before the Marines,” Young said. “You need to take care of yourself, stay healthy and appear on time every day. That helps a lot. There is no rest. If you forget water or something, (plants) will die. . “

One of his favorite things about the business, Young, who is crazy about efficiency, said that he can produce large amounts of food in a small indoor space without the use of fertilizers.

“It’s a kind of end to me. It’s about using the sun to control everything, not the direct sunlight,” Young said. “It’s a little hard to get freshness. It’s my long-term goal not only to distribute it on a larger scale, but also to maintain quality.”

Young, who said he was passionate about growing microgreens, said he wanted to significantly expand his business. Young said his goal of “sounding like a dream now” is to build a large-scale solar facility.

“At some point, whether it’s a career track or not, we need to seize the opportunity, and for me, this is it,” Young said.