Four Green Thumbs– Quatre Pouces Verts owner Mario Bourgeois is seen with Tom’s Pantry Owner Tom Manley. Courtesy Photo
Microgreens – a source of flavour and nutrition.
Many people are searching for ways to increase the nutritional and flavour of the foods they eat, and microgreens are emerging as a specialty vegetable which fulfills both goals. Microgreens differ from spouts in a few ways. A microgreen green can be grown either hydroponically or in soil it requires sunlight and are harvested after one to three weeks, while sprouts are grown in water with the harvest being done within two to three days.
In December 2021, Mario Bourgeois, his wife Mylene and children Èmy and Léo started their entrepreneurial journey by starting Four Green Thumbs – Quatre Pouces Verts. This urban farm is located in Casselman, produces a selection of microgreens in organic soil year-round and in the summer grows hot peppers at Ferme Albert Forgues in St. Albert. Their urban farm is in Casselman, Ontario.
“I started with hydroponic to keep a constant supply of greens and herbs for our meals, but it was taking too long,” said Mario. He continued, after investigating microgreens he discovered these highly nutritious plant seedlings require about a week to be harvested after planting. When his children showed a lot of interest in helping, Mario saw an “opportunity to start a family-owned business” where he could get his family to contribute and mentioned his daughter came up with the company’s name.
Microgreens are seedlings of vegetables and herbs which provide key nutrients in a practical way, with Mario explaining they are “harvested as juvenile greens” usually after reaching three inches tall and have produced their first true leaves. He continued microgreens “contain highly concentrated vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants” which, when added by chefs and home cooks alike to dishes, “incorporate healthy yet visually appealing elements into their dishes.”
Some of the advantages of a microgreen include their ability to grow and be harvested in a short period of time, and the impressive nutritional value. “Broccoli can have up to 40 times the nutritional value of the mature broccoli we buy from the grocery store. A handful of broccoli microgreens sure doesn’t provide the same calorific value of the mature version but on the nutritional side it does bring you more,” explained Mario before adding how grabbing “a handful of microgreens and incorporate it in your meals to get your vegetables portion for the day.” He continued almost any vegetable can be harvested as a microgreen, noting “We have onions and basil which are just insanely good. Same flavours but with a highly concentrated nutritional value.”
When asked about challenges faced in operating Four Green Thumbs – Quatre Pouces Verts, Mario mentioned the fragility of microgreens, noting they “wilt pretty fast” which require coolers for summer deliveries to ensure they arrive in prime condition. There is a large time investment needed to successfully run a microgreens’ business. “Getting microgreens to the harvest stages is the easy part. Packaging, order processing and delivery is what takes a lot of time and not to forget marketing as well. No business is easy, it takes persistence, motivation, and a positive attitude,” commented Mario.
Current markets for the company include Tom’s Pantry in Alexandria, Ferme Albert Forgues in St. Albert and The Creek Market in Moose Creek, with the expectation of more retail locations where their microgreens will be available for purchase. The business is currently looking “for a space here in Casselman to grow the business,” said Mario when asked about future goals.
“Agriculture is an integral part of any community, farmers feed the world. We take this seriously and this is why we have been delivering over $1,000 worth of microgreens so far, to our local food bank. We have a donation option on our website where you select the $1 donation, and we match your order and deliver the same microgreens to our local food bank. The $1 covers the packaging material and we provide the microgreens.”
More information on Four Green Thumbs – Quatre Pouces Verts can be found on their Facebook page and their website, which includes an online store, at www.FourGreenThumbs.ca.
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Carolyn Thompson Goddard, grew up in Chesterville and attended North Dundas District High School. After completing her BA in Political Science at Carleton University she has worked as a medical secretary and library technician. In 2020 she graduated from Algonquin College with a diploma in Journalism and has been a reporter and column writer for The Chesterville Record for over 10 years.