Allan Bridle hols sprouting kit in front of his booth at Summerside Farmers Market

Big Ideas Sprout Tiny Farms

Father-son team launch Summerside-based business to grow a crop of micro farmers

Farming, in the traditional sense, is a pursuit beyond the ability of most people these days. It’s a labourious, time-consuming enterprise that requires a good deal of physical and mental strength, as well as a sizeable acreage of arable land. Yet Alan Bridle and Maxime Rousseaux-Bridle are convinced everyone can and should be a farmer, at least on a tiny scale. The father-son team recently launched The Micro Farmers, a Summerside-based business specializing in microgreen, sprouting, and cat grass kits.

“We wanted a way to talk to people on a regular basis about microgreens and give the local community an easy way to access our kits,” Bridle said, explaining the decision to set up a booth at the Summerside Farmers’ Market in October 2016.

The inspiration for The Micro Farmers can be traced back to 2014, when Rousseaux-Bridle began learning about the Western food system and its inherent problems. He began growing microgreens soon after to reduce his family’s dependency on imported organic vegetables and local vegetables that were only available seasonally or too costly. Bridle soon followed his son’s lead.

“We would love to live in a world in which everyone has access to real, nutritious, sustainably-produced food. We believe that such food is best produced via small-scale, local agriculture,” Bridle said. “The current trend towards fewer farmers operating increasingly large-scale farms is deleterious to both human society and the environment.”

Close-up of micro-greens sprouting

Microgreen sprouting kits at The Micro Farmers’ booth at the Summerside Farmers’ Market.      Photo Credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

The duo are intent on creating the perfect conditions in which to grow an ever-increasing yield of micro farmers. They believe microgreen kits are the way to do so.

“Microgreens and sprouts are the easiest way for people to start sustainably growing some of their own food. Our hope is that this will increase people’s inclination to demand that their food come from a face instead of a [grocery chain],” Bridle said.
Recent transplants from the Greater Toronto Area, both father and son are adjusting to life on PEI while learning the ropes of their new business venture.

“We visited PEI for a 1-day camping trip… in the summer of 2015. It was our first trip to the Island, but we loved it immediately,” said Bridle. Within the year, Rousseaux-Bridle and his family had moved to Summerside; Bridle followed shortly thereafter.

“The one word that comes to mind about life in PEI in general is holistic. And that goes for building a business. There’s always a sense of accommodation, helpfulness, and kindness and everything ends up being more than the sum of its parts, a bit like a microgreen, in fact,” Bridle said.

For both, this foray into the world of food and agriculture is a departure from their past professions. Bridle has worn many hats in his 50 years of work, most notably spending 20 years in theatre and 30 years as a renovator and cabinet maker. Rousseaux-Bridle has been a software developer all of his working life and co-founded a small software consultancy 5 years ago. They’ve applied the skills and experience from these respective careers to The Micro Farmers.

“The division of labour has fallen mostly on the line between the computer, Max’s domain, and the rest of the world, my domain,” Bridle said, who looks after sales, packing and shipping kits, and fielding customer calls, while his son handles the design, branding, product photography, research, and purchasing. In March 2017, Bridle’s second son, Hugo, joined the team to help with photography, artwork, and social media.

Profile picture of Hugo Rousseaux-Bridle, Allan Bridle, Maxime Rousseaux-Bridle

The Micro Farmers team (L-R), Hugo Rousseaux-Bridle, Allan Bridle, Maxime Rousseaux-Bridle. Submitted photo.

In the few short months since the The Micro Farmers set up shop in Summerside, the company has made significant inroads establishing distribution channels for its kits beyond the farmers’ market.

“Our cat grass kits are now in 20 pet food stores [across the Maritimes and in Ontario]. We are also thrilled that Callbecks Home Hardware in Summerside started carrying our microgreen and sprouting kits,” said Bridle. The kits are also available online at Amazon.ca, on The Micro Farmers’ website, and via a monthly microgreen kit subscription.

Bridle said the biggest challenge they’ve faced so far is a general lack of familiarity with what microgreens are and what they do.

“A microgreen is a sprouted seed taken one step further to a stem and the production of seed leaves and sometimes true leaves,” Bridle said. “Gram for gram, the nutrient content of microgreens is much higher than mature versions of the same plants. The flavour is also more concentrated. They also grow very quickly with almost no effort. In 9 – 12 days you can grow on your own windowsill a tiny garden of nutritionally-dense, highly flavourful greens.”

The Micro Farmers’ kits enable customers to grow four trays of microgreens on natural, compostable hemp grow mats using organic seed. Each tray is deeply sown on the mat and watered. They currently offer 7 different varieties of microgreens – peashoot, kale, kohlrabi, turnip, radish, cress, and wheat.

And while The Micro Farmers is an entrepreneurial endeavour, it is clear that the enterprise is a means for the pair to share their vision for a better food system.

“[We want to] help people foster a closer connection to their food by growing some of it themselves,” Bridle said. “We have always enjoyed each other’s company as a family, workmates, and as friends. To now build a company together with a worthy product that could touch many lives in a good way is something of a dream come true.”

About Shannon Courtney

Shannon oversees all content creation for Salty and may be ‘slightly’ obsessed with proper apostrophe usage. When she’s not writing about food, she’s either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a holistic-nutritionist-in-training and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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