“Microgreens are here to stay as a retail item.” So says Eric McClam of City Roots Organic, a certified organic microgreen greenhouse grower located in Columbia, South Carolina that grows 11 varieties of microgreens including kale, broccoli, snow pea, sunflower and more.

City Roots Organic grows 11 varieties of microgreens.

Indeed, more than a decade ago, microgreens weren’t necessarily a widely known item. Instead, it was an item that was largely used by mid to higher-end restaurants though that’s changing. In that time, along with local farmer’s market scale producers (which is how City Roots began in 2009) distributing microgreens, there are national growers as well as larger greenhouse and indoor growers producing the item, particularly in the last five to six years. “That’s pushed the supply and availability to something that’s more prevalent,” says McClam.

City Roots’ microgreens are grown year-round consistently and this Friday it is moving into its new 75,000 sq. ft. facility in South Carolina. “We are offsetting all of our energy with on-farm solar. My partner, my dad, and I are both previously architects and we worked with local engineers to design a one-of-a-kind geothermal heating and cooling system for the greenhouse,” says McClam, noting this includes radiant floor heating and cooling for the microgreens. “It’s about 80 percent more efficient and we hope to be one of the first energy-neutral and carbon-neutral facilities in the Southeast.”

City Roots' Eric McClam.

It’s also continuing to grow microgreens in organic soil in a controlled environment, thus eliminating the need for fertilizers, fungicides and more. “So our input costs are lower but it’s also environmentally friendly and we’re not relying on inputs. Microgreens have always been a higher price point item so we’re trying to drive that price down to make it more of a mainstream item,” says McClam.

Looking to operational efficiencies
As for pricing, there have been inflationary costs on packaging, transportation and more. “We’re having to absorb that pricing so we’re trying to be more efficient operationally within this newer higher tech facility,” says McClam.

A look at City Roots' new facility mid-construction.

This move into the new facility comes at a time when demand for microgreens changes somewhat. “The demand curve shifts for restaurants. Post-Christmas is a slow time,” says McClam. However retail demand picks up as part of the healthier eating many consumers adopt at this time of year. McClam also notes it’s seeing increasing interest in its herbal varieties such as cilantro and basil as a microgreen rather than as a potted herb/small tray herb display.

However, demand for microgreens in foodservice tends to pick up around Valentine’s Day.

For more information:
Eric McClam
City Roots Organic Farm
Tel.: +1 (803) 254-2302