Rosa Michaels was working as a farm apprentice for Cultivate! Ohio Valley (formerly Our Harvest Research and Education Institute) in Summer 2015. “I expressed that I would like a more challenging training experience as an apprentice,” explains Michaels. “Ken Stern, coordinator of the apprenticeship program at Cultivate! Ohio Valley, came back that fall with a small grant from the City of Cincinnati’s Urban Agriculture Fund and an idea.”
That idea was to propagate vegetable plants for local farmers as a way to advance Michaels’ own education as an apprentice, but also as a way to generate income through the winter and early spring.
Soon, CincySprouts was born. CincySprouts is a vegetable and herb transplant growing business.
“CincySprouts is a venture started to provide local farmers and gardeners in the Cincinnati area with plants and seedlings grown locally without the use of synthetic chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers,” says Michaels.
However, CincySprouts is much more than just a transplant venture.
“CincySprouts offers several wholesale possibilities for local growers and customizable retail purchase options for gardeners,” she adds.
Michaels is just one of the several people behind CincySprouts. Stern is also on the team as well as Charles Griffin of Cincinnati State’s Sustainable Agriculture Program, Anna Haas of Ohio Valley Food Connection, Akshay Ahuja of Green Acres and Cincinnati Magazine, and Stefanie Kremer, who Michaels credits with bringing the idea of CincySprouts to life in the dead of winter and made the project possible during crunch time of spring and summer farming times.
According to Michaels, what makes CincySprouts unique is that it is the only small-contract grower in Cincinnati. “Farmers or gardeners can select what they want grown from our seed supply and/or they can send us their seeds to propagate for them,” says Michaels. “The prices stay the same either way.”
CincySprouts aims to be as accommodating as possible and work closely with customers to ensure that they get exactly what they ordered.
“Handing over your future plant babies is a big ordeal for most full-time growers,” says Michaels. “Transplants are the base of any farming operation, the plans need to be healthy from the beginning to turn into hardy vegetables or herb plants later in the season.”
CincySprouts is dedicated to sustainability and localism. The soilless mix is organic production approved and purchased from Ohio Earth Foods, the seeds are purchase from small seed companies like High Mowing Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Ohio Heirloom Seeds, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and fertilizers are animal or mineral based and organic production approved.
CincySprouts has planted seeds in Cultivate’s heated greenhouse in College Hill on the century-old Bahr Farm, and will be located in three greenhouse locations this year. Seeding began in January at Cincinnati State’s greenhouse in Clifton, and then in March everything moved to the homebase greenhouse at Bahr Farm, and in April CincySprouts will be using an additional greenhouse on gorman Heritage Farm off Reading Road.
“In 2016, CincySprouts grew for Giving Fields, a freestore food bank farm in Melbourne, Kentucky; Gabrield’s Place in Avondale; gorman Heritage Farm in Cincinnati; OTR Home Grown Urban Farm; Mt Washington Urban Farm; Rob Lewis of Turner Farm in Madeira; and St. Francis Community Garden,” says Michaels. She adds that CincySprouts also took small, custom orders from gardeners and sold every Saturday and Sunday at Findlay Market.
While CincySprouts is a fairly new venture, Michaels has already found her happy place with it. Her favorite part is being in the greenhouse working, whether with the team or solo, as she seeds thousands of seeds. “It’s meditative and calming,” she says. “I also love educating folks who may have never grown something before or they are planning their first garden, I’ve been told my enthusiasm is contagious, but I want people to experience the same joy and absolute satisfaction of growing something from a little plant to it becoming a dinner dish. Personally there is nothing more gratifying.”
CincySprouts will return to Findlay Market for the 2017 season. And Michaels adds that in addition to the normal Findlay Market weekends, CincySprouts will be doing pop-ups shops around Cincinnati, beginning in May. These pop-ups include the Cincinnati Earth Day Event in Blue Ash on April 22 and Sayler Park Sustains event on June 10. The team is also planning for other pop-ups this year as well.
CincySprouts merchandise will soon be available, with a redesigned logo. They will be selling everything including buttons, magnets, stickers, and t-shirts, all of which will be available at any of the retail pop-ups and Findlay Market.
“Cultivate! Ohio Valley also holds workshops about once a month that are geared more towards farmers, but anyone that is interested can attend,” says Michaels of those who are interested in learning more. “Workshops this year included greenhouse building, seeds starting, the ins and outs of organic certification, and successful urban farm business planning.”
To learn more about Cincy Sprouts, visit www.cincysprouts.com. You can also send the team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along on Instagram and Facebook. You can also learn more about Cultivate! Ohio Valley and the farmer apprenticeship program at ourharvest.coop and click on the tab “About” then “Farmer Training.”