Microgreens have risen in popularity over the years. Major sandwich chains use them, every grocery store sells them, and they can be grown quickly and easily in everybody’s homes. But did you know that you can also find ways to sell the microgreens you grow?
Can you really make a profit out of microgreens? Yes, you can make a profit by selling microgreens, thanks to the fact that they cost very little to grow. They are also highly-prized in the right markets because of their nutritional value and bold flavor. The key to making money from growing microgreens is to know where to start selling them.
Here you will find a detailed guide into the world of microgreen farming. I have included estimates of what your expected costs and profits will be. I will also share stories of success, in case you are looking for inspiration!
How To Sell Your Microgreens
You will have numerous opportunities to sell microgreens that will be discussed in further detail here.
Local Farmers’ Markets
Local farmers’ markets present an excellent opportunity to sell your microgreens. Just about every major city or suburb has farmers’ markets at some point in the year, usually peaking during summer in temperate climates.
Websites such as localharvest.org show a directory of farmers’ markets in your region as well as a brief description of when and where they occur.
Selling microgreens at a local farmers’ market has led to a dramatic increase in profit for farmer Matthew Bass who even constructed his own greenhouse in a corner of the farmer’s market, as is reported here.
Bass recalls selling an average of about 20 trays of microgreens per week before participating in the Nashville Farmers’ Market. Now he says that he sells about 250-300 trays of microgreens per week.
Local farmers’ markets attract a diverse crowd and present growers with the opportunity to sell to microgreen fanatics, as well as people who have never heard of microgreens before.
At first, some newcomers may buy the microgreens solely because they are weird or quirky; however, with time, many of them will likely grow to enjoy the taste of and health benefits of microgreens.
Community Supported Agriculture(CSA)
If you have never heard of the term before, community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a program designed to connect growers directly with consumers interested in supporting local agriculture. It’s a growing social movement spreading throughout rural, urban, and suburban areas.
The program starts with consumers supporting a farmer financially before the growing season by paying for a share of the farm’s production.
CSA programs provide commercial microgreens farmers with the tremendous opportunity to put a little money in their pockets prior to the harvest season. They can adjust their budget accordingly and may even be able to set up a greenhouse that they thought they otherwise might not be able to afford.
A quick search online shows that numerous microgreens farms have started CSA programs for their farm.
Many microgreens farms offer their customers subscription services where they will receive a fresh supply of microgreens every week.
The subscription service model is tailor-made for the sale of microgreens. This is because the growth period of microgreens is very short. If you want to start a subscription service for a product, you certainly want to be sure that you can provide customers with a steady supply of fresh greens.
Take, for example, this microgreen farm out of Portland, OR. This farm sends a 20” by 10” tray of fresh microgreens every month. The customers can pick up their month supply at a couple of stores that the farm has partnered with.
Other farms even offer their customers a home delivery subscription service, as will be discussed in the next subsection.
This microgreens farm in the Memphis area offers its customers with a home delivery service. Customers can subscribe to the home delivery service online.
Farms that set up home delivery services set up their own service area boundaries. If you set up a home delivery subscription service, you will need to keep this in mind, as you will not want time and travel costs to eat into your profits.
Still, this is a great way to connect with future customers. Driving around the delivery vehicle site-to-site is a traveling advertisement. Customers will probably tell their friends and neighbors about your farm.
Selling to Grocery Stores
Selling to grocery stores is viable if you run a larger and more professional operation. This strategy is not always a doable option for start-ups and smaller operations since the entry requirements are greater.
You will have the advantage of being able to sell large volumes, and you may be able to build a lasting relationship with a client.
However, selling to grocery stores may often require you to:
- Not receive immediate payment
- Follow standard packing and post-harvest practices
- Set up a PLU (Price Look-Up #) or UPC code
- Set up a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) plan
Selling to grocery stores can be quite lucrative for microgreens farmers once they are able to connect with an interested buyer.
You can read the story of Kesandra and Dale Maskill in the Livingston Daily newspaper. The couple started a microgreens farm selling eight (8) different varieties. They have been able to sell to grocery stores and numerous restaurants—the couple reports earning $1,000 a month in supplemental income.
The reason why microgreens can be so profitable is that the overhead costs are limited. The couple says that they have kept farming infrastructure costs below $2,000 in total.
As with any niche market, connecting with the right buyers is critically important to turn a profit.
Selling to Health Food Stores
Health food stores are particularly interested in buying microgreens, which are highly touted for their nutritional value when compared to mature greens.
Microgreens have a more intense flavor than fully-matured greens, and they are in general as much as five (5) times more nutritious than other greens, according to this farmers market.
Selling to Restaurants
Selling to restaurants is much the same as selling to grocery stores in that you will have to show that you are organized and have a production plan in place.
It is also recommended that you visit with chefs in off-hours where they are not as busy and may be willing to try out your product.
Here are some tips for selling microgreens to restaurants, provided by the NC State Extension:
- Offer a niche product that the chef probably won’t find from other local sources
- Get in touch with multiple restaurants
- Flavor matters more than yield
- Grow a variety of different microgreens
It is also recommended that you call the restaurant to set up a visit. Show that you are professional by using a receipt book when quoting prices rather than the corner of a scrap of paper.
How Much Does a Microgreens Farmer Make?
Microgreens can be quite profitable, but before deciding if microgreen farming is right for you, you must first take into consideration the costs associated with microgreens. Here you will find a comparison of the costs commonly associated with microgreens with the average profits seen at a per pound level.
Costs Associated With Microgreens
The amount of net profit that microgreen operations can accrue depends on a variety of factors that will be discussed in further detail here.
Due to their fragile nature, microgreens are typically grown indoors, where they will not be exposed to the elements. Since microgreens are sensitive, you must take care to design your growing space to be friendly to microgreens.
Microgreens do not require too much space to grow. Usually, microgreen seeds are grown within 1020 plastic flats or 1010 seed trays. When you are calculating how much developing your grow space will cost, take into consideration that you will need:
- A greenhouse or other protective structures
- A source of light
- Circulation fans to properly ventilate plants
You can save a lot of money by buying seeds in bulk rather than buying seeds in the small seed packets that you often see in gardening and hardware stores.
Check the amount of seeds you get compared to the money you pay. Sometimes you may be able get 3 times the amount of seeds for only double the money.
The availability of seeds in bulk makes it much easier for growers of microgreens to turn a profit.
Look for fine-grained soils that will provide the growing plants with a good source of nutrition. You should avoid soils that have a bunch of clumps and pieces of wood because they will choke out the small plants.
The soil-less growing media is comparable in cost to the soil when you consider how much more productive it should make your trays.
Like seeds, it is recommended that you buy growing media in bulk quantities to avoid overspending on a bunch of small packages.
Source Of Light
Fortunately, you do not have to buy fancy grow lights to grow microgreens. The Clemson University Extension recommends an adjustable light source such as a fluorescent light tube.
Of course, you can also place the growing microgreens in a greenhouse or other area where they will be exposed to sunlight.
You will need to properly ventilate the plants you are growing to ward off diseases. This is particularly the case if you have a medium- to a large-sized operation where you will be growing a lot of plants in a small area such as a greenhouse.
Circulating air helps keep the microclimate dry. When condensation is allowed to occur on leaves, disease-harboring organisms begin to thrive, according to this article from the University Of Massachusetts.
Use circulating fans such as the Lasko 20” High-Velocity QuickMount fan.
How Much of a Profit Microgreen Farmers Can Make
As you can see in the subsection above, the start-up costs associated with starting a microgreen growing operation are minimal.
The question on your mind is probably how growers can turn a profit and how much commercial success do microgreen farmers have, whether they are selling at a local farmer’s market or through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
According to this researcher from the University Of Florida Extension program, microgreens have become so popular that they can sell for over $25 a pound in the right environment after the farmer has spent as little as a few hundred dollars on seeds and supplies.
What Types of Microgreens Are Most Profitable
Profit depends upon which kind of blend you are putting together. Being creative with your microgreen blends will make them more widely sought after. The researcher for the extension notes that Asian blends and Italian blends are popular in his particular area, for instance.
In 2016, research was performed on the profitability of different types of indoor farming in Rhode Island.
The research showed that microgreen/herbs farming was one of the more profitable types of indoor farming. Farmers of microgreen/herbs reported revenues of $12.63 per pound on average, while the reported revenues on normal greens were $6.00 per pound.
In the right environment, microgreens and herbs have the potential to return double the profit that normal greens do. This is likely a result of how cheap it can be to produce and harvest microgreens. This doesn’t necessarily mean that microgreens are selling for twice as much as normal greens.
In the next section, we will cover advice on how to increase efficiency using a four rack system.
How To Market Your Microgreens
Marketing microgreens is critical to being able to connect with potential buyers. Understanding the benefits of microgreens will help you connect with the many patrons at farmers’ markets or stores who are unfamiliar with microgreens.
Microgreens Are Much More Nutritious Than Other Leafy Greens
Tell potential buyers about the numerous health benefits associated with microgreens, including the fact that they are often more nutritious than their fully-mature counterparts.
Research performed at the University Of Maryland found that microgreens can be 4 to 40 times more nutritious than their mature counterparts.
Microgreens are often high in Vitamin E and Vitamin C, both of which are considered antioxidants. Many potential buyers will be interested to hear this.
Fresh Microgreens Are Hard To Come By
Microgreens are not really used much in cooking because they are delicate. Rather they are typically consumed raw after some minor washing.
Since microgreens are so delicate, they typically only last 2-5 days. This makes fresh microgreens quite difficult for the average consumer to find.
When you are trying to connect with potential buyers, you should approach a selection of local stores and restaurants.
Microgreens typically can’t be transported across the country, so stores or chefs looking for microgreens will often have a difficult time finding suppliers.
Microgreens Grow Fast And Can Easily Be Grown Year-Round
Microgreens are typically harvested within 10-14 days of planting. This means that you should be able to resupply buyers with a fresh supply at least a couple of times a month.
Other fresh produce may go through long growing seasons and short harvest seasons. Produce can always be transported to temperate climates, but by the time it arrives at the grocery store, it may cost more than it normally does and not be as fresh.
Locally-sourced microgreens might seem a little pricey to consumers at first, but they are always going to be fresh at the market, and they pack more of a punch nutritionally.
Give Buyers Tips for Incorporating Microgreens into Their Dishes
This advice extends to growers in general. You may have a hard time convincing people to buy your microgreens because they don’t see a use for them.
Microgreens usually cost more than other greens that are bought in bulk. It doesn’t necessarily make sense for the average consumer to buy microgreens unless they know about the practical uses.
Offer Free Samples
It is highly encouraged that you offer potential buyers with free samples, whether you are a vendor at a local farmers market or trying to sell to a chef.
The edge that microgreens are supposed to hold over fully-matured greens is that they are more nutritious and more flavorful.
Don’t just tell people about the benefits of microgreens, show them.
Recommended Literature for Microgreen Growers
There are numerous publications available that tout the benefits of microgreens. These books will provide you with a further understanding of how to grow your business. You can also recommend these resources to those unfamiliar with microgreens, some of whom may be potential buyers.
Microgreens: How To Grow Microgreens For Fun Or For Profit
This paperback book is marketed towards not just first time growers, but also growers who are looking for tips on how to get bigger yields.
It features sections on the problems that you may encounter with growing microgreens and how to solve them.
Buy it here: How to Grow Microgreens for Fun or Profit
Microgreens: Intense Hydroponic Grows
This book dives into how to grow microgreens in a hydroponic environment. The book is marketed on an instruction manual on how to grow microgreens without even having to use soil.
It also includes detailed sections on how to deal with troubleshooting hydroponic microgreen farms, including issues such as diseases and fungi.
Buy it here: Intense Hydroponic Grows
Microgreens: How To Grow Nature’s Own Superfood
This book is an excellent option for your counter at the local farmers market. Recommend this book for foodies who are looking for the answer to all their nutrition-related questions.
It also includes sections on how to prepare fresh microgreens, including kale, daikon radish, and bok choy, among others.
Buy it here: How to Grow Nature’s Own Superfood
Use A Multi-Rack System To Increase Efficiency
If you are looking into starting a microgreens business, you are likely doing so because you do not have very much growing space or resources.
You can get the most out of your growing space by implementing a multi-rack growing system that allows you to place a significantly greater volume of trays within a small area.
- Vertical shelving units such as this AmazonBasics 3-Shelf Shelving Storage Unit. You can triple your growing space with this set-up
- You can also find mini portable greenhouses such as this Gosunny Deluxe Green House. This portable greenhouse is reinforced with powder-coated steel.
- A portable greenhouse is an excellent option for a start-up that doesn’t have that much space, to begin with. You can expand to a bigger greenhouse as your farm grows.
How to Price Your Microgreens
The Purdue Horticulture Business Department performed a study into the specialty crop prices at Indiana farmers’ markets. The study found that microgreens were selling for $8 per bag during August and September.
The study suggests that the pricing of microgreens can vary drastically by season in temperate climates. In Indiana, the microgreens are not necessarily sold year-round. Most microgreens were sold between April thru December.
The typical target price for a pound of microgreens is around $40. The price will vary depending on a variety of factors, as will be discussed below.
Pricing Varies Depending Upon Variety
Some varieties and mixes of microgreens can come at significantly higher prices than others. Varieties that are difficult to grow or slow-growing species tend to sell for higher prices than others.
The most challenging and appropriately-priced microgreens include the following according to Produce Grower:
- Swiss Chard
Some of these are among the more popular microgreens. Basil, for example, comes highly recommended by BBC Gardener’s World Magazine due to its distinct flavor.
Pricing lists from Innovative Ag, show that Basil is among the pricier options available. Also in the upper-tier pricing-wise are Swiss chard, beets, and kale.
If you are just getting into microgreens farming, it is recommended that you start by growing beginner-friendly varieties that will still provide you with healthy profit margins.
Beginner-friendly microgreens include:
The beginner-friendly microgreens listed above are easier to grow because they tend to grow faster, and they are not as sensitive to environmental conditions as other microgreens.
Mixes Are Popular
Once you have learned the ropes of microgreen farming, you can begin to branch out. This is the fun part for many farmers who come up with mixes of microgreens that set them apart from other vendors.
- Being able to offer your customers a unique product can also help you widen your profit margins. Otherwise, you won’t find yourself sticking out among the sea of vendors at a farmers’ market.
- Microgreen flavor mixes are often a hit at farmers’ markets. You will often see the leading vendors selling microgreens as mixes rather than full trays of the same green, such as a whole tray of red cabbage.
Sunshine Cove Farm out of North Carolina sells mixes on its online marketplace. One of the choices of microgreen mixes they offer is Pico de Gallo.
The blend of aromatic flavors is marketed as an excellent taco topping. Being able to market good uses for your microgreens helps to further support the value of your product versus other vendors.
Consider yourself inspired by the story of the suburban microgreens farm “Veggies in The Burb”. The husband and wife team grows 26 different varieties of microgreens.
Some of their most popular products are prepackaged taco mix blends. They happened to discover the success of the blend on accident after Hurricane Harvey left them with a plethora of unsold inventory to eat.
Can You Really Make a Profit Out of Growing Microgreens
Thanks to low start-up and overhead costs, it is certainly plausible to make a decent profit from growing microgreens. The key to success is knowing your market.
Microgreens are kind of a niche item. They are enjoyed by people who are looking for fresh superfood. They are also enjoyed by people willing to pay a little extra for the fresh, bold flavor.
To be able to connect with potential buyers, you should look into local stores and restaurants, particularly health food stores. You should also look to become a vendor at a popular farmers market. Localharvest.org is a great resource for finding local farmers’ markets.
You can visit the website and pull up a map showing all the markets in your area and the dates they run.
It is highly encouraged that you branch out by creating your own special mixes of microgreens. Farmers have found success making special blends, such as a taco blend with a little kick to it.