“The business is multi-faceted,” said Dave Chalek, the man behind Sprout Food and Farm’s mission to bring fresh, local, sustainable produce to the area—not just in the summertime but year-round.
This soon-to-be Verona resident plans to operate a produce market in the retail space in the front of the property located at 82 Pine St. while maintaining a greenhouse in back.
He'll also be running his current landscape design and organic garden care business out of the location, and he’ll do it all seven days a week, 365 days a year.
For local residents and restaurants this means access to fresh, flavorful natural produce all year long. And Chalek’s garden is anything but garden variety.
He grows plants with such tantalizing names as long Chinese noodle beans, dragon’s egg hydroponic cucumbers and wickedly hot ghost peppers.
Customers can also pick up potted, mini gardens-to-go created by Chalek for garden-challenged customers or those with limited space.
Chalek does the hard work, filling pots with all the necessary ingredients to make a great salsa or sauce. Customers just add water. The pasta sauce pot includes tomato plants, basil and thyme while the salsa pot is planted with peppers, tomatoes and cilantro. And that’s not the only mini thing he’s got growing.
Sprout focuses on, well, sprouts. Harvested when “the first leaves pop out,” these micro greens are sought after by chefs and gourmands alike.
“They are packed with flavor,” Chalek said, noting his micro peas are particularly popular as are his micro herbs, which he said are at the peak of flavor when they first sprout.
Using the property’s original 1940’s Lord and Burnham glass greenhouse, which Chalek painstakingly restored when he took over the property, vegetable plants, herbs, flowers and micro greens can continue to flourish over the winter, but to provide a plentiful mix of diverse produce all year long Chalek has also partnered with like-minded farmers.
Selling other produce directly through Sprout allows Chalek to offer a wider array of fresh fruits and vegetables. The partnerships also enabled Chalek to expand his growing capacity through crop shares. Farms grant Chalek plots land in exchange for a portion of the produce he yields.
Aside from direct sales at the market, Sprout will also act as a community sponsored agriculture or CSA site. As such Sprout will become the meeting point for farms delivering weekly grocery bags filled with the latest harvest and their customers who have purchased farm shares in an effort to access fresh friuts and vegetables.
As with his own produce, Chalek noted he only works with farms dedicated to using organic or conventional farming methods.
“Conventional farming uses same methods as organic farmers,” Chalek asserted, pointing out neither applies pesticides, petrochemicals or unnatural fertilizers.
“The whole point of being organic is not using chemicals and fertilizer,” Chalek stressed while explaining conventional farming follows the same practices.
“One reason why local is better is because you know the farmers.” That relationship Chalek points out, allows customers to gain an understanding of how their crops are grown and learn exactly what goes into their food. This awareness is the true benefit of buying local, according to Chalek.
While Chalek would like to supply his market with all locally grown produce, he admitted when operating year round, it’s not possible.
“In winter people still want tomatoes,” he acknowledged, which is why he will source his produce from further away as the seasons change. But he’s committed to buying U.S. grown produce “farmed in a sustainable manner.”
“It’s still going to be the same,” Chalek emphasized, “and we give our guarantee that the food is grown properly.”
Meet Sprout Farm and Food at the Caldwell Farmers' Market, Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., in the Smull Avenue Parking Lot behind the Caldwell Cinema.
Sprout Farm and Food
82 Pine St.