Walbridge native turns passion for farming into growing business

Katie Siebenaller

        Drew Sample, a Walbridge native, started his business in the spring of 2016 as owner and operator of a microgreens farm. Though only part-time, it was clear that Sample was onto something with Capital City Greens, an urban farm located in Columbus.
        Sample grew up between the Toledo area and Columbus, and in that time held various jobs in sales. After a car accident in 2010, he once again found himself heading back to the state’s capital city.
        “Something was pulling me back to Columbus,” Sample said.
        Gazing at his new Columbus home, one thing was clear to Sample: “I didn’t want to cut the grass.”
        From that point on, he embraced a “grow food, not lawns” slogan, deciding he would grow and sell salad mixes  right from his own home – fresh produce, minus the middleman.
        “I’ve always been an entrepreneurial person,” Sample said. “And farming was something I could bring my passion to.”
        Though microgreens were always part of Sample’s plan, they ended up stealing the show. “They were the most profitable – but also they’re the most nutrient-dense,” he explained. Since microgreens are harvested before the plants can fully grow and mature, the extra nutrients that are usually used for this process are concentrated in the young greens. Microgreens hold about five times the nutrients that their mature counterparts contain.
        “After my first season of growing, my microgreens were already a hit,” Sample said. “Two local restaurants made [microgreens] a central part of their menus, and I was struggling to keep up with the demand.”
        In three years, Sample expanded his business to supplying microgreens to more than 30 eateries. At the beginning of this year, he was all set to continue building on his success — that is, until mid-March.
        On March 15, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered restaurants to limit their services to carry-out only — a big hit for Sample’s clientele and, unfortunately, his own business.
        Sample made the choice to take his business in a new direction.
        With the future success of his business suddenly up in the air, he turned to his friend and long-time manager of the Lee Williams House of Meats on Starr Avenue in Oregon, Greg Huntermark.
        “[Huntermark] graciously asked if I’d be interested in offering my microgreens to their customers,” Sample said. “Lee Williams House of Meats is the best, and teaming up with them has given my business a much-needed lifeline.”  “When the restaurants closed, Drew called and asked, ‘what am I going to do?’ I said, ‘bring it here. Let’s make it happen,’” Huntermark recounts.
        “With this virus, you have to look at business differently,” Huntermark said. “You have to adapt. You have to adapt and pivot, and that’s what [Drew’s] doing.
        “He’s a sharp guy; very well-educated,” Huntermark adds. “People need to be educated about microgreens.”
        “For me, with everything shutting down – most people are trying to see how to survive. The biggest thing was, I’m doing this in Toledo. All of my family’s in Toledo. I’m trying to channel that blue-collar work ethic of the Glass City,” Sample said of his expansion locally. In addition to partnering with Lee Williams, Sample’s microgreens are now being stocked at Churchill’s and he’s doing home deliveries.
        “Toledo has a really rich food history,” Sample adds. “To be a part of that food culture is something else that’s exciting to me.”
        More about microgreens
        Microgreens are young vegetable and herb greens, about one to three inches in height, harvested around six to 13 days after planting. A few types of microgreens were first used in cuisine in the 1980s in California’s high-end restaurants. Today, there are currently more than 25 varieties of differing textures, colors and flavors. The taste of microgreens varies depending on the seeds planted. Some are fairly neutral in taste, while others can be spicy, slightly sour or even bitter.    
        Though smaller than baby greens, these tiny plants pack a punch – not just in flavor – in nutrients too. Microgreens have been found to have a concentrated nutrient content, meaning they contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than their mature counterparts. Most varieties are rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper as well.
        There are many ways to incorporate these young greens into one’s diet. According to Sample, microgreens are a great addition to sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads. Microgreens can also be blended into smoothies or juiced. Wheatgrass juice is an example of a juiced microgreen.
        “It just complements anything,” Huntermark says of the tiny greens. “A nice steak with some microgreens on the side and you’ve got a meal.”
        For those a little more hesitant about cooking with new ingredients, microgreens can also be used as a garnish — topping dishes such as pizza, omelets or curry.


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