By Kristie Snyder, GreenStar Marketing Staff

What’s a microfarmer? Ask Ellen Brown. She grows crops, to be sure — very, very tiny crops. A small commercial kitchen facility below her Freeville home and a modest greenhouse structure nearby provide all the space she needs to run Dancing Turtle, tending microgreens and sprouts.

We all know good things come in small packages. Ellen’s crops are packed with nutrients and as fresh as can be, arriving at the Co-op having been harvested (in the case of the microgreens) mere hours before, or (in the case of the sprouts) still living and growing. “I find it very satisfying that I can produce really healthy food,” Ellen says. “It’s a pretty neat job!”

Sprouts and microgreens are among the easiest produce to prepare — no peeling, chopping, or cooking necessary. Just add dressing and, voilà, salad. Toss some onto a sandwich or taco for a crunchy, flavorful nutrition boost, add them to more complex salads or stir fries, juice them — or simply munch them right out of the package. GreenStar carries a rotating selection of sprout mixes, including alfalfa and the popular Crunchy Beans Mix, and microgreen crops, including sunflower, radish, and broccoli greens. Once you discover the joy of these tiny superfoods, you just can’t get enough!

A former vegetable farmer and restaurant worker, Ellen began sprouting over a decade ago as a way to round out her offerings of more traditional vegetable crops. While not certified organic, her products are grown from organic seeds and require little else — when you eat a sprout, you’re essentially eating nothing but a seed. Pure well water is the only thing used to raise them. The microgreens derive nourishment from a thin layer of soil blend (sourced from venerated local supplier GreenTree), are watered regularly, and — that’s it. Soil, water, light.

And love.

“I’m nice to the sprouts,” she laughs. “It does matter! The sprouts were my first babies.” That love extends to the earth and to Ellen’s family. Dancing Turtle strives to have as little environmental impact as possible, composting roots left behind by harvested microgreens, reusing plant trays until they fall apart, recycling what can’t be reused, and packaging products in compostable containers. A child of small-business owners herself, Ellen is quick to point out that Dancing Turtle is a family business. Her two children, almost-7 and 4, have grown up with Dancing Turtle as an integral part of their lives. “It’s just what we do,” she says. “It’s a family effort.”