Micro-green farm owners, David Barchard and his wife, Kirstin Barchard, turned their lifelong passion for local, quality food into a full-time career, but have struggled with the challenges of running a small, green business.

Kirstin’s passion for food began with home-style meals.

“There’s nothing like sitting down at a table with family-style food and the conversation that happens and the community that happens and drinks happen, food happens, stories happens, laughs and that kind of stuff. It’s always just a good time. It’s a way of socializing,” she explains.

David worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years, helping create that kind of socialization.

“The restaurant scene was always very much about bringing experience to the customer and bringing good food along with that and having stories behind the food,” says David.

He remembers a time working in the restaurant industry when restaurants had to change almost the entirety of their menu when imported products did not arrive on the proper shipment.

“What I saw over the years was that it became less about the stories because we didn’t know where stuff came from. We tried to ask suppliers who brought the food in and they didn’t even know,” says David.

This disconnect led to David’s growing concern surrounding local versus imported food.

“Seeing that food for me was just getting poorer and poorer quality yet more acceptable. And that was the biggest challenge on communication and on the product side which led us into creating something that’s fresher,” he says.

“We wanted to bridge that gap where if someone needs something, they can call us, relatively speaking, any time of the day if there’s a challenge or they need something. We have that open line of communication.”

After a few months of research, David proposed micro-green farming to his wife, Kirstin, in Jan. 2018.

“It was one of those gut instincts, like no hesitation — like, ‘Yeah let’s do that.’ It seemed like a creative idea. He’d done so much research into the background of it. It was like a lot of gut instincts where you have no hesitation and it turned out to be the best thing for the family. It turned out the best thing for us,” David explains.

Micro Acres, the Barchard’s micro-green farm, ready for harvest. Photo by Marin Peake-MacAlister.

Micro-greens, as described by David, are, “the second stage growth of plants so your sprouts would be after they’d gone through the germination process. So, it’s basically a second stage of a growth vegetable.”

Since starting their micro-green farm, Micro Acres, David and his wife have dealt with competition from traditional suppliers.

“We’re seeing the trend of a lot of large companies offering incentives to buy everything through them. So, a lot of big companies are giving you a one per cent back, two per cent back, but you have to order only from them,” David explains.

“A lot of these chefs are getting ham-stringed where they can’t actually order from small guys because it’s like Pepsi can’t sell to coke vice versa right. If a big company has a micro-green, they can’t buy from us.”

Even though there are benefits to purchasing from big companies, Micro Acres, among many other local businesses, offer things that big companies cannot, such as an environmentally friendly, sustainable and reliable source of fresh food.

“We’re not susceptible to hail, snow, wind, rain; all these external factors so often wreak havoc on traditional farming,” says David.

Most fresh food lasts only days before spoiling, however, the Barchards aim to increase the average shelf life of fresh food products to anywhere between seven days to three weeks with their micro-greens. This, in turn, reduces waste and benefits the environment.

Furthermore, Micro Acres has a fully climate-controlled environment with no pesticides or fertilizers — thus nothing enters the water table or soil. Micro Acres also lets other farms and ranches reuse their food waste as feed or fertilizer — another environmentally-friendly practice the farm utilizes.

Kirstin explains her ideal food world would be similar to one of a European market.

“Ideally for me, I would love to be able to say everything in our fridge and in our kitchen has been grown or made in a local aspect.”

Editor: Sarah Green | sgreen@cjournal.ca