Small-scale Microgreen farming as a pathway out of poverty

Progress report for FNC22-1346

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: StarkFresh
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Tom Phillips
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Project Information

Description of operation:

This past year has been one of prepping the farmer and the space to be able to start growing.


In Canton Ohio, 32% poverty rates are a reality. Those seeking employment to be able to afford food pull themselves out of poverty, are fewand far between, especially without a college education or with a criminal record of some sort. StarkFresh operates a Food Justice Campus, located within downtown Canton, OH in a 100-yr-old building. The Food Incubation Center, housed within the Campus helps erase barriers towards business ownership, by taking physical assets (affordable office space and a shared, licensed commercial kitchen)and pairs them with personalized guidance & training mainly with our Business Development Boot Camp. We've created space in the Campus basement for a microgreen growing operation. There aren't any microgreen farms locally designed to create employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are seeking a way to earn a living. Locally, the demand seems to be growing for quality microgreen offerings. By growing in an otherwise unusable interior space, we are able to better use resources &not have to take up potentially valuable land for other agricultural crops. Through the creation of this pilot microgreen farm, we hope to create an example of how a different approach to food and employment can create a meaningful way out of poverty.

Project Objectives:

1. Prep and equip the basement at the Food Justice Campus to be a suitable space for microgreen cultivation.
2. Test different growing mediums using different base materials, growing styles, and growing vessels.
3. Take an unskilled, low-income individual and teach them how to cultivate microgreens.
4. Increase microgreen sales to local restaurants, retail stores.
5. Document the entire process to be able to duplicate at a later date, at a different location, with different individuals.


Materials and methods:

Much time has been spent researching the best way to grow in the environment and space that we are attempting this in. Limitations to operating in a basement have us choosing the best way to grow.

Participation Summary
1 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

As the farm is not yet up and fully operational, no outreach has taken place yet.

Project Outcomes

1 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
Success stories:

Retrofitting into an existing space is always a bit of trial and error. What looks good on paper doesn't always translate well into a real-world application. That being said, we've done a good job of keeping to the spirit of what was originally intended for this space, albeit it has taken much longer than intended. Finding the right person to farm the space, and then empowering her to be able to get most of the work done herself also took longer than intended. We put her through our business development boot camp and she is working on finishing up her business plan as part of this project. Construction of the site is nearly complete and she hopes to begin growing within the next month or so.

it doesn't look like much but it's a start! who knew basements were so dirty! testing out lighting setup little momma's helper! first wall up!

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.