When Jenni and Richard Walker moved onto the family farm in Launton, they wanted to put the 10 acres to good use and decided to diversify. So began their new venture Magnificent Microgreens.
After much research, in June 2018 the couple began growing their first microgreens harvest in a polytunnel using organic seeds in organic soil, with all the packaging being fully biodegradable.
The resulting crop of pea shoots, micro rocket and sunflower shoots was soon joined by a whole host of other microgreens from micro radish to micro coriander, micro beet, micro red vein sorrel to name but a few.
Soon in great demand with the likes of The Milkshed in Weston On The Green and The Trigger Pond pub in Bucknell, Jenni also signed up for a stall at Waddesdon Manor’s Artisan Market, and in February sold out within two hours.
Jenni also began the Launton Artisan Food Market in November for 13 local food producers, which really took off.
Magnificent Microgreens was even short-listed for a Thame Food Festival bursary and Love British Food awarded the new company Producer of the Month.
Magnificent Microgreens was going places.
Plans for a second polytunnel, and interest from chefs all over Oxfordshire and beyond began streaming in. But now that coronavirus has hit, the markets have been shut down and the pubs and restaurants closed.
And yet The Walkers remain positive, if realistic. They hope their crop – currently pea shoots, radish Microgreens and sunflower shoots- can be used in delivery boxes instead and are in talks with several food box companies to ensure this happens.
“Circumstances have taken over, and what will be will be,” Jen shrugs, ” but we hope to be back. All the restaurants and pubs have said they will continue to order from us when they are back in business.
“We are still quite small but the response to our produce has been amazing.”
And while Microgreens might be self explanatory (they are the shoots of salad vegetables such as rocket, celery, beetroot, etc, picked just after the first leaves have developed), why are they so popular?
“Microgreens are really healthy – up to 40% more healthy than the mature vegetables with some amazing health properties so people use them more in juices, shakes and as as proper ingredients as a garnish now.”
And yes it is a niche market, but we don’t know anyone doing this around here.” Jenni says.
Growing and harvesting the herbs is time-consuming, with extensive water and soil checks required, while both Jenni and Richard both manage other careers.
In the meantime, Magnificent Microgreens is helping with emergency care packages for those self isolating in Launton and Graven Hill, as involved in the community as ever.
“it’s great to be doing something to help,” Jen says,
“Otherwise, at the moment, we are just trying to get our name out there.
“Long term we’d love to supply more pubs and restaurants, and see our produce in farm shops and delis, or our sunflower shoots as snack packs, but we are quietly confident and hope to emerge relatively unscathed from this current coronavirus crisis. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.
“On the positive side, I think going forward, it will mean that more people will buy locally and continue to do so afterwards because it’s what they have become used to. I certainly hope that’s the case.”