Michael and Hayley are doing big things with little plants. Their business, Fernside Microfarm launched in 2021 and has since been turning heads of chefs, fruit and vegetable retailers and direct customers with their extensive range of delicious, nutritious and super-fresh microgreens.
Microgreens are mini seedlings of vegetables and herbs, harvested right at the beginning of their growth cycle. Their early harvest and the fact they’re usually eaten raw gives them a powerful nutrition profile, delivering up to 40 times the vitamins and minerals of their fully grown counterparts. Their taste and appearance (pretty, colourful, vibrant little shoots with adorable wee leaves) make them a popular garnish in cafes and restaurants. But they can also be used in salads, sandwiches or pretty much any meal that you want to add a bit of nutrition, flavour, crunch or pizazz to.
“Microgreens are the ultimate sustainable superfood,” explains Michael. “They’re so nutritious, super delicious and, due to the micro scale of our farm and the super fast growth cycle of our produce, we use less water than regular produce farms and no sprays at all, meaning our product is very sustainable, environmentally.”
Despite living on a 10 acre rural property, the footprint of the farm’s growing operation takes up less than 100m2. The microfarm is located inside a climate controlled, purpose-built facility annexed to Michael and Hayley’s home. The microgreens are grown in shallow trays on a vertical racking system, meaning that significantly less ground area is required than traditional produce. They also grow year-round, meaning a regular and reliable supply of quality microgreens for their wholesale customers.
Fernside Microgreens was born from a desire for a balanced life. “Our lives revolved around our careers,” explains Hayley. “Michael and I decided that once our daughter was born, we would find a way to balance our work and home life so one of us could spend the precious early years with her. We wanted our daughter to see life through a lens of wellness, sustainability and respect to Papatuanuku.” And so, Hayley returned to work as a manager in a busy corporate, while Michael took on the day-to-day care of their daughter, as well as the challenge of starting a new home-based business. “We were already growing microgreens for ourselves, and we naturally gravitated to a commercial business model for vertical microfarming. It just made sense for us”.
Like their microgreens, the business has grown rapidly, and continues to flourish. In addition to their original offerings such as broccoli microgreens, pea microgreens and radish microgreens, the couple have introduced new varieties including sunflower, kohlrabi, red kale and bok choy. They’ve also recently launched an edible flower range and are looking in to other year-round micro delights for their thriving microfarm.
Why North Canterbury? We love the North Canterbury community. We chose to move here from Christchurch City 9 years ago and never looked back. The beautiful rivers, uncrowded beaches and access to a range of outdoor activities is what attracted us to the area, and it is the people that keep us here.
What’s your favourite thing to do in North Canterbury? In summer, exploring along the Ashley stop bank from SH1 bridge west. We love to take a picnic and find a good spot for a swim. In winter, we love a weekend away at Mt Lyford. We try and pick the good weekends to get snowed in up there – it hasn’t happened for us yet but we live in hope!
Name your top three North Canterbury brands: Impossible: We have so many businesses that support us and that we love, we couldn’t possibly name just three!