Colonial Heights High School senior hones entrepreneurial skills selling homegrown greens to local restaurants

COLONIAL HEIGHTS – Trent Jackson, a senior at Colonial Heights High School, put his passion for entrepreneurship to work by spearheading his own business growing and selling microgreens to local businesses.

Before the start to his senior year, Jackson began searching the internet looking for ways in which he could locally use his passion for entrepreneurship.

“I kind of just stumbled upon the microgreens idea as I was searching the web,” Jackson said. “I’ve always been into entrepreneurship and business, and I recently came across agriculture, health, fitness and wellness. So, I tried to figure out a way I could kind of tie them all in together.”

Jackson began growing microgreens – which consist of nutrient-dense broccoli shoots, yellow corn shoots, pea shoots, sunflower shoots, basic salad mix, spicy salad mix, basil micros and cilantro micros – in a self-built 10 by 20 foot greenhouse. He later moved the greens to an open room in his house due to temperature and lighting requirements.

“I started off growing them in the greenhouse, but quickly figured out they need a lot of regulation regarding temperature, sunlight and humidity,” said Jackson. “So I built vertical growing racks in our laundry room in the back of the house, brought in the necessary fluorescent lighting and moved them inside.”

The process of growing the microgreens includes planting the seeds in soil, watering them regularly and making sure to get rid of any bad seeds that could cause incorrect growth or fungus. The greens grow anywhere from two to four inches before Jackson harvests them one to three weeks after planting them. He currently is able to grow around 32 pounds of microgreens.

He first began selling his microgreens at local farmers markets, and later began trying to obtain farm-to-table restaurant clientele.

“I field tested selling them at the Colonial Heights and Petersburg farmers markets, and then in my research I found out I should attempt reaching out to restaurants to find consistent customers,” Jackson said. “Being so young and inexperienced, I was nervous at first to approach the restaurant owners and managers.”

Jackson’s nerves faded as he gained experience communicating and working with local business owners.

“I now have two restaurant clients, including Local Vibes and Brickhouse Run, and I’ve also sold basil to Ashton Creek Vineyard,” said Jackson.

He added, “I’m in the process of acquiring a few other places as well. I want to have a greater direct client base.”

Jackson plans to delve further into his passion for entrepreneurship when he attends college in the fall to study business. He has already been accepted into an international business school and James Madison University, but has not yet committed to a program.

Until he leaves for college, Jackson plans to continue operating his microgreens business through his senior year, learning new things and growing his client base in the process.

• Kelsey Reichenberg may be reached at kreichenberg@progress-index.com or 804-722-5109.