A Q&A with Ralph and Tina Gerlitsch, founders of Kelowna, BC Based Farm Avenue M
What's your name? What’s the name of your farm and where are you based?
We are Ralph and Tina Gerlitsch, co-founders of Avenue M. Avenue M is a Certified Organic indoor, vertical grow operation in Kelowna BC Canada. We grow year round and supply local grocers, restaurants and Farmers Market with fresh Microgreens, Peashoots, Sunflower Shoots, Radishes, and Micro Herbs, like Basil, Dill, Cilantro...
What's the story behind your farm?
We are in our 5th year of operation. We started out as a hobby using friends and family as customers.
We quickly realized we had something special. We learned how to grow, dealing with the many hurdles of all growers making mistakes and enjoying the triumphs along the way.
We built our business in a very controlled manner, learning early that you can grow all you want but you do need somewhere to sell it.
We saw the retail sector being under-served and decided to secure shelf space before someone else did. We expanded slowly, adding new stores and their standing orders one at a time.
We are a husband and wife team, with no employees by choice. Keeping our business small and manageable on purpose means we can control quality, follow systems and procedures, and maximize our weekly sales.
What types of microgreens and other produce are you currently growing?
- Purple Kohlrabi
- Wheatgrass...and others by request, not part of our weekly crop
View this post on Instagram
We’ve not missed a beat! .💚💚💚 We are a team of 2 in life and business-and while some days can be challenging working with your spouse - side by side with very sharp harvesting knives... 😀 🥰 😘 We continue to supply weekly deliveries of clean, healthy greens to many local grocery stores in the area. 🌱🇨🇦🌱 Our operation is small, we have no staff and take the current state of affairs very seriously being as diligent as ever and doing our part to keep our communities safe. . 🌱💚🌱 . When you have to go for groceries please continue to support our local supply chain- . . Stay home - Stay healthy @petersyig @naturesfaremarkets @choices_markets @qualitygreensfarmmarket @lakeviewmarketkelowna @oldtownfarmmarket @igastoresbc Glenmore @nestersmarket Airport . . And to our fabulous restaurant customers and friends at @kelownafarmersmarket we miss your faces- hang in there 🌱💚🌱 #kelownasmallbusiness #kelownaliving #okanaganlife #smallbusiness #localbusiness #microgreens #peashoots🌱 #sunflowershoots #indoorfarming #supportlocalbusiness #localfood
What do you grow your microgreens on?
What type of lighting are you using?
These are usually tubes ranging from T5 - T8N.
What type of temperature do you choose and what's your normal humidity level?
The optimal environment for microgreen production can be variety-specific, but we choose a favorable temperature range of 64 to 75 F and relative humidity (RH) of 45 to 50%. This usually meet the needs of most plants. Increasing the temperature and humidity may raise the risk of pest and disease issues.
What kind of water are you using for watering and do you use any add ons for the water?
Degassed water during germination, municipal water.
View this post on Instagram
#Germination station is jammed full of #microgreens in this corner of the shop - misted stacks and just planted trays await transfer to the lights. Harvest begins for delivery today and tomorrow with no chance of frost on this #local #produce 🌱💚🌱 . #kelowna #eatyourgreens #supportlocal #eathealthy #resolutions2019 #plantbased #okanagan #greens
What type of clients do you currently serve and what locations do you cover?
We are in 13 stores, several restaurants and weekly Farmers Market
What's Your Mission?
To continue with our lifestyle business growing and selling microgreens.
To keep the balance of work and play even.
Not looking to be rich and famous, just happy knowing we are providing a great, healthy product to our communities.
Based on your experience, what would you suggest farms in a similar position think about?
Go slow. Master one crop then move on.
Don’t try and grow everything.
Keep it simple.
Build relationships with your customers, it buys loyalty that is priceless.
Don’t be afraid of failures because there will be many. From moon cycles to seed lot changes, there are factors that impact every grow cycle.
You have to be okay with change and routine at the same time.
Study your crop, everyday.
Don’t let your business run you as you run your business.
What’s your favorite course and/book that helped you learn the in depth knowledge on growing microgreens and starting a business:
We didn’t take any course or read any book. YouTube was a source, but you really can get overwhelmed by all the different advice. Take the basic framework of knowledge and apply it to your very unique growing environment. Don’t look at the dollars that everyone says you can make.
Diversify; don’t sell to just restaurants, go retail, CSA and Farmers Markets they are a great way to meet your customers and educate.
What to do next?
If you enjoyed the Q&A with Avenue M please do share it on your social media profiles. You can also PM Ralph and Tina and ask them anything you want using any of the social media profiles described below:
- Farm's website - www.avenuem.ca
- A link to farm’s Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/AvenueMicrogreens/
- Follow them in Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/avenuemmicrogreens/