Microgreens grower carries on Indigenous heritage with tiny South Lake Tahoe farm
December 10, 2018
Miko Gastelum has moved around over the years — California, Washington, Colorado, Michigan — but wherever he's put down roots, he's always grown vegetables.
This summer Gastelum returned to South Lake Tahoe after a stint in Michigan where he earned his Master Gardener certification and worked on a permaculture farm.
"Their focus was indigenous food to the area that you live and also rare varieties that were cultivated by Indigenous people, but forgotten, like the sunchoke and certain ground nuts," said Gastelum, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe from Tucson, Arizona.
Now back in South Lake Tahoe, Gastelum has brought with him his microgreen operation, Indigenous Farms, and is proving that a year-round urban farm operation is possible even at 6,225 feet.
In a 60-square-foot insulated shed outfitted with grow lights, Gastelum is growing shelves of microgreens, sprouted vegetable and herbs harvested anywhere from seven to 21 days after planting.
Currently he's growing red Russian kale, broccoli, red cabbage, cilantro, pea shoots, arugula and radish microgreens.
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Though the farmers market season has wrapped up in Tahoe, his flavorful microgreens can still be found atop dishes at Evan's American Gourmet Café and in sandwiches at The Cork and More.
Health enthusiasts praise microgreens for their higher concentration of nutrients when compared to the mature, fully-grown vegetables or herbs.
"They have more flavor. More nutrients. We hope more people will jump on board," said Gastelum. "Next season we will have a few root crops and salad greens, but our main focus will be microgreens. That's our specialty."
And for Gastelum, growing crops is more than just a job — it's part of his heritage.
"Learning about the culture of my tribe, how they were taken away from their indigenous land where they grew corn, tomatoes, potatoes, everything. They were transplanted to different areas, yet were still able to prosper," said Gastelum.
"Farming was important to us. Microgreens allowed me to grow food in places that weren't necessarily mine, and I could take it wherever we went. It's a passion of mine and rooted in my heritage, I believe."
To see more of Indigenous Farms, follow along on Instagram at @indigenousfarms.