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Meet the vendor: Food Life Joy Microgreens

Meet the vendor: Food Life Joy Microgreens
Posted on 04/17/2019
Woman standing next to microgreen plantsLoralie and Eric Tangen started Food Life Joy Microgreens in 2010. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, microgreens are shoots of salad vegetables (like arugula, Swiss chard, mustard, beet, radish, broccoli, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi and herbs) that are picked just after the first leaves have developed. 

Eric is retired from the Blue Valley School District and Loralie has a background in physical fitness and sales. Both are United States Marine Corps veterans. When the company Loralie did sales with went bankrupt and the kids graduated, she found she had more time to devote to her love of gardening. 

In 2010, Loralie read about how microgreens pack a nutritional and flavorful punch and thought they were the coolest thing. The problem at the time was that there was no place to buy them. With her knowledge of gardening, she and Eric set out to grow their own microgreens. 

They participated in the Johnson County Healthy Yards Expo, selling six varieties of microgreen and vegetable starts (young vegetable plants to be replanted in a garden). She felt bad for the people leaving with vegetable starts. She told her customers it was still too cold to plant them outside and worried they would plant them anyway and the starts would die. Meanwhile, the microgreens were ready to eat the moment a customer took them home. 

Loralie soon expanded to growing 20 varieties of microgreens and now sells at farmers markets (including the Lenexa Farmers Market), to restaurants and a few specialty stores. Last year, Food Life Joy grew 5,000 units of microgreens for sale in the area. 

Loralie and Eric cultivate the microgreens in a grow room with natural sunlight and grow lights for those sunless Kansas days. Microgreens are sold directly from the container they are grown in. They are harvested at the peak of flavor by you at home. To harvest the microgreens, simply cut them with kitchen shears. While Food Life Joy’s microgreens are not certified organic, they use organic practices and mostly non-GMO seeds.

Loralie says the hardest part about selling microgreens is that many consumers are not familiar with them. Microgreens are young vegetable greens that are approximately 1 to 3 inches tall. They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content. They are considered baby plants, falling somewhere between a sprout and baby green. Sprouts are three to five days old and are grown without soil. Microgreens are seven days or older, most are seven to 10 days, but some are 14 to 21 days and older. It all depends on the variety of seeds and how long it takes them to germinate. 

Microgreens flavors are milder than their adult counterparts. So, broccoli microgreens have a milder flavor than the more pronounced full-grown broccoli. However herb microgreens have a stronger flavor than mature herbs. 

Loralie says microgreens are a way to eat vegetables some wouldn’t otherwise enjoy. They can be used in salads and smoothies, and on sandwiches, pizza and hamburgers. Microgreens are not just a “foodie thing.” Loralie’s favorites are arugula and spicy mix, which is a mix of broccoli, arugula, kohlrabi, kale, mustard and red cabbage.

Eric and Loralie love their microgreens business and look forward to expanding it. In 2013, they bought a rundown 11-acre farm in Osawatomie, Kansas. The property came with a beautiful old farmhouse. They have been rehabbing the house and garage, clearing the overgrown brush from the once-used farmland, and are preparing to farm there. Currently, they have garlic planted and will plant tomatoes and sweet potatoes for the upcoming market seasons. They are also experimenting with organic heritage wheat. 

Whether you’re already a microgreens fan or want to learn more about their benefits, take time to stop by the Food Life Joy Microgreens vendor stall on Saturdays at the Lenexa Farmers Market.

Published April 17, 2019