About Donny Greens
When I was a young boy, I used to walk through my grandfather’s garden picking fresh string beans off the vine and popping them like candy. Naturally, I was drawn to them because this was the freshest food I had tasted. It wasn’t until years later that I realized these were some of the most impactful moments of my life. I honestly believe this is where it all started
I didn’t grow up around gardens or organic whole foods. It was only those rare moments at my Grandfathers that I got a taste of the good stuff. My interest in agriculture was sparked my sophomore year of college while in a class called Global History. While we were learning about sustainable agriculture, my professor mentioned an Urban Farmer named Will Allen. Will’s methods of farming were very intriguing to me, not only because he used a closed-loop, self-sustaining agricultural system, but also because he wanted to create a system that could be implemented anywhere; even on a basketball court.
I decided it would be a good idea to work on a farm to get some hands-on experience in agriculture and see if this spark was really a passion. I worked at Thera Farms for two summers growing tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beets, and even hydroponic lettuce. Teddy, the owner, didn’t think I would last a week but after being around all the plants and helping facilitate the growing process, I was hooked. I am very grateful to have such a positive first experience farming that would solidify my passion and give me the confidence to later start my microgreens business called Finest Foods.
I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and now that I uncovered this passion for agriculture, I needed to figure out what I was going to grow. I was constantly scanning and searching the internet looking for a profitable crop that I could start growing without too much up-front investment or the need for a lot of space. I finally stumbled across a YouTube video of Nate Dodson (MicrogreensFarmer.com) where he was showing people how to start a business growing microgreens. I knew this was my opportunity, so I got started right away.
As I was starting my business, I was also learning a lot about health. I knew that microgreens were part of the “living foods” group, which are among some of the healthiest on the planet. As the boom in health consciousness began, microgreens seemed like the perfect crop to start growing. The online videos recommended selling to chefs but I quickly learned that I didn’t want to work in that market, seeing as I was more passionate about helping people improve their health. It was this realization that led me to changing my business model and pioneering my home-delivery subscription service.
Once I had learned how to grow microgreens, I decided to focus on four key varieties; Pea, Sunflower, Radish, and Broccoli. I started out by tabling at various farmers markets. This provided an opportunity get the word out about my company in my local community, and I began building a list of potential customers for my weekly subscription service. In no time, I had a decent customer base including some health-food stores and juice bars. My business was off and running with little monetary investments, and I quickly began outgrowing my first grow space, a small section of my parent’s basement.
I was able to move out of the basement and into an old run-down deli in less than a year from the start of my business. At this point I had 3 racks for growing and a 4th for germination, with plenty of space to expand. I focused on growing my subscription service and creating the most efficient methods of running my new farm. I began hiring my first round of employees, while also developing a new product called the sampler box, which cost $20 and qualified my customers for free delivery. It was a nice option for people because it contained a little of everything – a variety of flavors and a variety of nutrients. As people are new to eating these foods, this was an easy go-to option that took all the thinking out of the purchase. It quickly became the top seller.
At this point, I was growing on ten racks and the farm was running very smoothly. I was even able to take a trip to Colorado for a few days which hasn’t been possible since moving into my next (and current) farm. It took about another year to grow out of the deli, find, and move into my new grow space. This was an exciting transition because my business was established, and the new space was such a vast upgrade to the deli. I now had a large building that had nice aesthetics and high ceilings. There was room for over 24 racks, and I was able to design it very efficiently. My farm is now located on a main road rather than a side-street, which has created more visibility, translating to more awareness and walk-in traffic.
I moved into the new farm in February 2019 and it took the whole year to finish making upgrades and adjust to the space. I had a client-base of over 60 weekly customers, which was covering both my business and personal expenses. Though I didn’t focus much on sales, new customers signed up throughout the year and I earned over $100,000 in sales throughout 2019. I was able to stop attending farmers markets which meant that all revenue was coming strictly from my subscription service. Now that my microgreens business was established and successful, I wanted to focus more on my big-picture goals and start setting myself up to achieve them in the future. These goals included inventing a new sprouting device, creating a software for microgreens farmers, and the launch of my personal brand, Donny Greens.
Over the past few years, I have been able to slowly move my side-projects forward. I have invented and filed two patents on a sprouter, which I am very proud of, and with the help of an investor or a crowdfunding campaign, we will soon be entering into the manufacturing phase. I have also been working on the software for microgreen farmers with a friend from high school who is a programmer. This software is based on the excel spreadsheet I created to run my business and will be of great value to microgreens farmers across the world when it is ready to be released sometime in 2020. I have launched my YouTube channel and the Donny Greens brand is growing. My goal is to provide as much value to the microgreens community as possible so that we can get more people eating these wonderful plants.
I realized I can only grow so much food locally at my urban farm. I decided that my main goal as an entrepreneur is to leave the greatest positive impact I can on our planet and on mankind. By creating educational content, powerful software, and new products, my efforts and impact will be multiplied, resulting in more successful microgreens businesses and more people improving their health with living foods.
Stay In Touch
To stay informed on the progress of these various projects and learn more about growing microgreens and microgreens business, follow me on YouTube, Instagram, & Twitter (@DonnyGreens) and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list below. You can also join my “Microgreens Support Group” on Facebook to receive guidance, helpful information, and meet other likeminded growers. I look forward to meeting you!