What Florida MicroGreens Grows Might be Small, but it Packs a Mighty Punch
Tucked away in a small, nondescript office building in southwest Cape Coral is a farm. No, this farm doesn’t have cows or pigs or acres of produce. This is an urban farm. More specifically, this is a hydroponic microgreens farm.
Hydroponic farming is a high-tech growing method, where plants and vegetables are grown without soil.
Florida MicroGreens is the brainchild of Rob Epple, who runs the company with business partners Rachel and Nick Shemenski.
Rob—whose background includes teaching for Lee County School District and independent film production—started the venture just over two years ago, but he now counts more than 40 local chefs and restaurants as clients. (See page 16 for a recipe from Gather using ingredients from Florida MicroGreens.)
Why microgreens? Because Rob and his team saw a need and filled the demand. Their microgreens are full of flavor, high in nutrition and chemical-free.
“So many microgreens are being cut, packaged and sent here from places as far away as California,” Rob says. “That just doesn’t make sense. They certainly wouldn’t be fresh or last very long—and they are very expensive. We deliver our plants live, and they can last—when refrigerated—for four to six weeks.”
Microgreens are a growing trend in the farm-to-table movement that is bringing an emphasis back to local, fresh and nutritious ingredients at restaurants nationwide. And it’s for a good reason—they typically grow quickly, efficiently and are very eco-friendly.
“Many of the greens we sell to chefs only take seven to 10 days to grow,” Rob says.
Florida MicroGreens offers a vast array of micros, from basil to peas to mint to onion to radishes and more. It’s truly a massive microgarden.
“Urban farming really is sort of an exotic idea down here. Obviously, it has its pluses and minuses,” Rob says. “But, for example, after the hurricane, we were able to be up and running just seven days after the storm, whereas a traditional farm could require several months to recover their crop.”
Their use of their small indoor space is impressive, and they built it all from scratch, even developing their own unique lighting and watering systems.
“Rob and Nick take shifts to ensure the plants are being watered properly,” Rachel says. “It’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week business. It’s a lot of work and a lot of passion.”
Growing microgreens is a labor of love for this team, but it’s also a never-ending job.
“There’s a lot experimentation of in this field,” Rob says. “We keep thinking about the future and the needs that need to be met. I’m sort of a mad scientist.”
Florida MicroGreens is growing fast. They recently expanded “the farm” to another office space next door to their current location.
Beyond growing their greens, they also provide educational outreach to school students and offer demonstrations to chefs, cooks and others interested in microgreens. They’ve even expanded to selling at farmers markets, including the popular Wednesday event at Purple Spoon in Bonita Springs.
Rob, Rachel and Nick are certainly pioneering a new type of farming and harvesting unique tiny crops in Cape Coral.
For more information, call 239.218.2635 or visit FloridaMicroGreens.com.