Matecumbe Microgreens is not only a local farm with healthy, delicious crops, but it’s also a unique business model which requires an entrepreneur with next-level skills to navigate its intricacies.
“After I graduated from Florida Gulf Coast, I applied to be in a program called the Institute of Entrepreneurship,” said Jonathon Lindback, Matecumbe Microgreens owner. “I loved the environment and everything about startups.”
After that, Lindback worked for his dad and then landed in Ocala, where he began studying microgreens on YouTube and started his farm.
Lindback is from a family of business owners, so when he returned to the Keys early this year, he realized no one here was growing food for the locals. In May, he decided to bring his farm down from Ocala.
“The best lesson is just doing it. Radish was my tester crop, and due to how fast it grows, eight to nine days versus a three-week grow, I was able to test a variety of ways to grow, learn its nutrients and how to harvest it,” Lindback said. “Right now, I have about 20 different varieties of microgreens growing, but I have over 40 varieties that I have grown.”
Microgreens are a stage of crop growth. The first two leaves that grow out are called cotyledons. After that comes the first true leaf — a microgreen. Then let it grow into a petite green, baby greens and a full-grown green. The nature of seeds can also vary with germination, which is the sprouting of the seed.
“Top products that I sell consistently are cilantro, basil, and the salad mix, a nice mix of five different seeds. Those five seeds are broccoli, arugula, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi, as they have the same germination and growth cycle time. For the community, the sunflower, salad mix and radish are popular. My favorite is the purple radish.”
“Chef Alan Wilkinson, who was my first order down here, really helped me grow in the community,” Lindback said. “He helped me with some restaurants, and I knocked on doors, sharing sample boxes. Building a business is sometimes growing things to give stuff away to get started. I never short on my restaurants. Anything left over is what I have open to the public, I take to Key Roots or sell to the public.”
Working with Lindback is Robyn Leary, who started helping him about a month ago.
“I enjoy it; it’s really fun. And honestly, eating the microgreens is one of my favorite things,” Leary said.
Lindback’s girlfriend, Katie Cleek, whom he met when calling on a local restaurant, helps with his social media and other things, too.
Microgreens are powerfully potent with incredible health benefits. A little goes a long way, as they are so nutrient-dense. Lindback also referred to them as “vegetable confetti.” Microgreens across the board have a high level of sulforaphane, which has been recognized to help fight cancer and is continuing to be researched.
“Average microgreens are about 40 times more nutrient-dense than the full-grown counterpart. An ounce of broccoli microgreens is equivalent to 4 pounds of broccoli. Cilantro has six times more beta-carotene,” Lindback said.
“I am grateful to my brother, Brian, and sister-in-law, Patti, who own Islamorada Hemp Company, for their support as my farm is on the same property; and also Take Two Kitchen, who is a great customer,” he continued.
Local restaurants that buy Lindback’s crops are Take Two Kitchen Food Truck, Pierre’s Restaurant, Marker 88, SHIMA, Cheeca Lodge & Spa, Square Grouper, Key Roots, Seaside Eatery and Off the Hook.
“One of my favorite things to grow are the live trays that SHIMA keeps on their counter,” Lindback said. “With microgreens, the quality and shelf-life are there. Since I cut out about five delivery days, the shelf life is longer, and the quality of being fresh is better than other food suppliers. The chefs have been very happy.”
What’s next for Matecumbe Microgreens? “Specialty mushrooms and edible flowers are on my list, and more space overall,” Lindback said. “It’s exciting to see the community support for a niche local farm. I am so thankful.”
Matecumbe Microgreens is on Instagram @matecumbemicrogreens or Facebook; orders can be picked up at the farm or Islamorada Hemp Co. at MM 81.9. Open farm is on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or pick up regularly stocked boxes from Key Roots at MM 81.