6 more days until sprout season

Sprout season is just around the corner!

I just finished interviewing 8 potential apprentices and will be making my decision today.  Not an easy task picking from a group of very enthusiastic candidates – but I think I have made a decision…

The site is looking great and I can’t wait to get rolling on production.

I am going to need to source some new seeds as the organic seeds I have been trialling did not perform very well.  I have a conventional sample on its way that I can trial with my first or second batch.

Still hoping to increase production by 25% this year as well.  With all the hype around urban farming since November, I hope that means some increased sales.

More pics. of the site:


Setting up for 2011

So I started prepping the sprout site for the season.  I’ll have a few changes this year, but nothing too drastic.

Today I rebuilt the prep table and built a permanent cover over it.  This will make it easier to maintain and much easier to work in adverse weather.  Additional cover will still need to be put up for harvests, but this makes tray prep very easy:

Next I will build some storage space so I can keep all my equipment at the site – including trailer sand coolers, which I used to take home each day.  I will also have a freezer on site for ice.

I have had about 25 applicants for my apprenticeship position which is a bit daunting!  I won’t be able to interview everyone, but going through the applications should be fun!  It’s a pretty good mix of applicants, but only 1 or 2 males applied – the rest are female.  Same thing happened last year.  I am still not sure why that is though. Probably for the better – men are pigs anyway…

I will have to find a new seed source this year as the company is out of the stock I used the past two years.  It was such good seed – whatever will I do?!  I am trialling an organic variety right now, but the seed was small so I am not optimistic.  It would be nice to use an organic seed but they are just so crummy!


Site Secure for Another Year

Well I have really neglected this blog!

But I am happy to say that I have now secured my sunflower sprout site for another season which is a nice relief. And a bonus on top of that is even though I offered, I will not be charged any rent for the season.  That makes me happy!  Though I have to say that I kind of wanted to pay the rent so I could at least feel some security in that I was paying for site and service and thus had an alley for complaint if need be.

But most issues that have come up we have been able to resolve, so I am not too worried about this.  I will be using some electricity this year so will probably buy a tracking device and pay for that.  I need power for early and late season heat as well as a small freezer which I will keep on site this year.  I hope to run all my activities from the site so I do not have to move my coolers back and forth between another site, which gets a bit tedious.  I had been hoping to build a shed at the site, but so far that seems like it won’t happen as the manager is afraid it will attract a bit more attention than he would like to the site.




Bad weather, but decent sprouts

Well, the weather is still crap, but with the heating cables the sprouts are still doing decently.  They are still only about 70% of what their potential is, but I have planted extra trays to make up for it.

I thought I would post a picture of the new sprout site, to show its urban context.  The location is only about a ten-minute bike ride from downtown and only five minutes from my house!

I am meeting with a catered next week which would be my first foray into the catering world.  I had not thought much about caterers before but have now identified several who fit the sunflower sprout profile!

That’s it for today.  I’m preparing for the biggest harvest of the season tomorrow and finishing up a grant application so need to get back to it!

Weather Sucks

Well, the weather really sucks right now for growing sprouts so I have been utilizing heat cables as a supplement.  They work very well and really improve growth.  Depending on the day temperature I either leave them on just at night or all day and night.  They have definitely helped salvage a few batches!  As I have been busy getting things up an going this year it has been more difficult to pay attention to the weather forecasts for making adjustments to sowing dates.  And, of course, the forecast is only good for a day so making adjustments is difficult.  Though I have learned that early growth is important in setting a good foundation for later growth.

Last season was so hot the main issue I had was over mature sprouts.  This year it is the opposite so far.  But I am still a few weeks ahead of where I was last year, so the weather will improve.

Back to the Blog

Well, I have been a very naughty blogger (insert spanking joke here), so I am going to try and give an update to bring ya’ll up to speed.

After a difficult search for land I finally found a spot about 5 minutes from my house.  The location is perfect for sprouts – good sun, fenced and secure, access to water, and otherwise non-gardenable land.  It is basically across the road from Strathcona Park.

The New Site and a cold apprentice!

This season I have taken on a part-time paid apprentice which has made work a little easier and a bit more rewarding.  So far she has been very good and has contributed to to the process.

The season has been off to an erratic start.  My goal is to double production this year, so there is a lot of pressure to produce sprouts.  I started the season several weeks earlier than last year which has given me a chance to work out some kinks (insert another spanking joke here).  But it has been difficult since the weather has  been cold which results in a much smaller (though still good quality) sprout.

I have made a few improvements to the sprouting bench and expanded it by one section , allowing me to produce  over 100 trays a week if wanted (not wanted).  I have built doors on hinges that may access a little easier and added some light mesh to allow for cooling on hot summer days.

Artsy shot of the growing bench.

But the sprouts have been very popular so far and I have added 3 new restaurants to my client list with more to come (I hope!).  I will also be targeting catering companies soon.

My biggest change this year will likely be my switch to organic seeds.  I had trouble sourcing the seed last year and I think I now have a good source of reliable organic seed.  It is a little bit smaller, but actually grows fairly well and uniformly.  My first trials were OK, but I did not have the optimum sowing rate.  But I have 30 kg to work with so hopefully I get it right soon.  If the trials work out with these batches than I will continue with the organic seed and apply for organic certification.  If they do not perform well enough than I can return to the previous stock that I used.  I would really like to stay with the organic seed as conventional seed is subject to lots of chemical use.

The first market this year was not great as we did not have a very good location.  But the second market was much better and we sold out by 11:30 (which is way too early!).  But we got lots of regular customers back and they were all excited to be buying sprouts again.

The production manual’s first version is finished and I have actually shared it with a few people.  As this season progresses I will modify it to take into account changes I incorporate this season.  I received a 96% grade for the manual as part of my directed studies project which is reassuring!  But I have yet to meet with my professor to get his feedback – which is way more valuable than the grade.

I am also in the process of applying for a grant for the business this year.  We should have the business plan done this week.  I would use the funds to develop a marketing plan, upgrade the growing benches, cover my start up costs, and develop a product recall plan.  It has been a good process writing the plan and has given me a glimpse of the future.  The goal right now is to double production again by 2013 and to introduce new products including pea shoots (in process), wheat grass (soon), micro-greens (oh, where to start?), and vegetable starts.

Well, I hope that is a sufficient update after a long absence.  I will do my best to keep things a bit more up to date!

On the lookout for land!

Well, after a very successful season I am pretty much fully wrapped up now.  I should have my production manual finished within the next 2 months and will soon start doing seed trials for next season as I am considering trying to get my production Certified Organic.  There may be a few challenges since I am urban-centered, but I am confident I will be able to adequately address any concerns of the Certification Committee.  I am now more concerned about finding good enough certified organic seed.  This year I used a hybrid seed that performed so perfectly it is almost hard to believe (though I will give my production method a bit of credit as well!).  I am not as concerned about volume of production as I am about uniformity.  The sprouts this year were so uniform the trays looked like a perfect carpet of sprouts.  Quite beautiful.

My big challenge right now is still finding an appropriate urban location for production!  I have been too busy lately to do a thorough search, but I do have a few potential spots.  I am just holding out for something a little closer to home!