Getting Started as a Sprouts Grower
Three years ago Jim Brooks and his wife Corie were about as far from the health-food sprouts business as one could imagine. As a fifth generation owner of the Rouge and Noir Cheese Factory in Petaluma, Jim was following the family tradition as a cheese maker. But a family feud in early 1994, which ultimately lead to a shake-up of the company's ownership and management, left Jim without a job.
The shake-up was so sudden that the Brooks had no plans for what they would do when they were no longer cheese makers. Fortunately, Jim's cousin in Santa Barbara provided timely advice and guidance on a direction for a new life for the Brooks. She had been a successful sprouts grower and offered to help get them started with their own sprouts business. Jim and Corie liked the idea and, with Corie's background as a food scientist, they launched their Petaluma-based sprouts business by the end of 1996.
To Jim and Corie, it was important to include their 3 and 6 year-old daughters in the name of their new operation because their 3-year old was born the day after the family shake-up. Though their daughters are still too young to be involved in the business, Jim and Corie carry their spirit in the name of the new company -- "Brooks and Daughters".
Growing Sprouts is Easy
Jim and Corie have found that growing sprouts is easy and it gives them the time they need to care for their two daughters. They start all the sprouts in buckets of water outdoors. As the seeds begin to sprout, they "plant" them on 17" x 17" open bottom nursery flats and move them into the greenhouse. In the winter, it takes about 3 weeks in the greenhouse for the sprouts to reach market size, but in the summer it only takes 1 week.
|Food or Therapy?
The Brooks didn't get into the sprouts business because they're health food gurus. But they think that most of their customers know the benefits of sprouts and buy them for their health-food attributes rather than for their culinary uses. But those who aren't looking for the health benefits can simply enjoy the fresh and flavorful crunch that the sprouts add to salads and sandwiches -- the onion and dill mixes are especially tasty!
For those uninitiated into the advantages of sprouts, the well-marked signs (made by Jim's cousin) provide a thorough introduction to the health benefits of each type. Since the sprouts aren't seasonal, you can count on finding each variety available every week of the year. Here's a brief picture of what you'll find:
|Sprout Type||Health Benefits
|Garlic-Onion-Dill Salad Mix||Fights infections (bacterial, viral and fungal); cleanses all mucous membranes, lowers cholesterol.|
|Onion-Dill Salad Mix||Contains Vitamins A, B-complex and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and zinc.|
|Alfalfa & Clover||Clover is blood cleanser.
Alfalfa has 3 times the zinc, iron, manganese than lettuce and 2-4 times the calcium, manganese, potassium and iron than spinach.
|Buckwheat||Vitamins A, C and K; bio-flavoroids, calcium, retin and trace elements.|
|Daikon Radish||Aids digestion; cleans mucus membranes; good for lungs, stomach and sinus.|
|Fenugreek||Cleans lymph system, kidney, liver and lungs; provides lots of iron.|
|Kraut||Anti-carcinogen; cleans all mucous membranes, stomach, sinus and lungs.|
|Garlic||Fights infections (bacterial, viral, fungal); cleans mucous membranes; lowers cholesterol.|
|Onion||Vitamins A, B and C-complex. calcium, potassium, sulfur ad zinc.|
|Sprouted Beans||Market mix, Rick's mix, peanuts, black-eyed peas, pumpkin seeds.|
|Pea Sprout Pesto||Invented by Corie for customers who want to incorporate sprouts into culinary dishes.|
|Organic Humus||Plain or seasoned with chipotle.|
|Wheatgrass Juice||High in chlorophyll; purifies the blood, suppresses bacterial growth, controls infection; functions as an anti-inflammatory. The juice is sold in a mouthful-size plastic. cup. You can drink it in one gulp and leave the Market cleansed and full of energy!|
The Brooks sell sprouts by the "handful". One "handful" costs $1.00 and should weigh about 3 oz. But Jim admits that he's probably providing his customers with more than 3 oz. considering the size of his hand! So far, they sell sprouts on a weekly basis at three farmers' markets: San Francisco's Ferry Plaza, Berkeley's Tuesday Market and Marin County's Sunday Market.
May 1997; updated September 2000.
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