Thursday, September 29, 2022

Microgreens farm expands footprint with gourmet market

CraftGrown Farms has opened a gourmet market in its storefront on Castle Street. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — “This is now the only place you can buy a fresh tomato on Castle Street,” David Scott said. “Produce is a dangerous game; we’re trying to gauge how much to buy to sell before it turns.”

Scott was restocking shelves, coolers and freezers Tuesday morning in the new CraftGrown Market on Castle Street. The 500-square-foot space is located in a 1955 building outfitted with full-length windows, showing off a selection of goods from the street. In the back is Craft Grown Farms, which Randy Rhyne opened in January 2021. 

READ MORE: Bourgeois lettuce: New microgreens and hydroponic farm opens on Castle Street

Rhyne grows microgreens, lettuce and herbs hydroponically, also sold in the market. He has a dozen or more varieties — sweet pea, broccoli, sunflower, salad, spicy greens — which are living when consumers purchase them. Thus, they last longer than greens cut off from the root. 

During the market’s opening over the weekend, the sale of the greens increased by 60%, Scott said.

Food and food-related business is Scott’s passion. Since moving back to Wilmington from New York two years ago, the former chef launched a cheese shop and sold his shares before opening a marketing and consulting business for food-centric entrepreneurs. Rhyne is one of his clients.

“We started talking six months ago about utilizing this storefront in a more unique way to draw in customers,” Scott said. 

Rhyne had been doing farmers markets and growing the wholesale side. CraftGrown handles all the greens for Trinity Landing currently and works with restaurants and bars, including Shagri-La and Salt Fish in Carolina Beach. Rhyne also offered CSA-style buys, but the market allows another creative outlet to reach the public.

The greens were offered as part of a take-home meal for two during the market’s opening launch. The special consisted of lasagna or manicotti, created by Salty Sistas in Sneads Ferry, as well as lettuce from CraftGrown and the market’s private label house dressing (the market also has private label sauces, salsas, butters, jams and spreads). Homemade breadsticks created by Hampstead Treasure Bakery finished the package, priced at $34.99.

“I think that’s reasonable for dinner for two,” Scott said, especially considering the food is all made locally. “And it seems to be working.”

The market sold out of the special as it welcomed 100 customers during its first two days. Scott was stacking aluminum containers of Bang Bang shrimp pasta, salmon with dill, rice and lemon aioli, and chicken Alfredo for this week. He will add more takeaway meals from vendors that CraftGrown Farms works with as the market gains more footing.

Coolers stock fresh locally raised meats, as well as cheeses and take-home meals and sauces. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

For example, Scott said, he will add in soups by catering company Kure, as the cooler temperatures approach. 

As well, local vegan “cheese” producer Kind Cultures has its products in a case alongside another vegan hard “cheese” Scott buys from a European purveyor. There is even vegan bolognese on the shelves. 

Scott stocked CraftGrown with a mix of locally made and international gourmet items. Four coolers are full of foodstuff by farmers, including fresh lion’s mane and shiitake mushrooms by Lite Work Farm (which also has dried versions on the shelves) and locally raised chicken from Changin’ Ways. There is bison for sale from the Asheville area, though Scott is working to procure it locally.

Hampstead’s Nature’s Way Farm goat cheese is sold, as are plenty of international and national styles, including burrata and mozzarella from Italy and camembert from Hudson Valley.

Shelving and display tables present local honey from Wilmington’s Sweet Life Honeybee Farm, Queen Esther Herbal Teas, Burgaw’s Homestead Treasure Farm breads, and Carolina Crisp Cookies. Stone-ground grits and fried-green tomato batter are situated between Outer Banks’ seafood boil spices, while Mancini pasta and Bulletproof tomato-basil sauce is in front of fresh basil and chives planted amid baskets of onions and tomatoes, oranges and apples.

Scott said, though it’s not a full-blown grocer, the gourmet shop aims to bring specialty selected products that can be easily combined to build meals. 

“I really think that people who are busy would appreciate walking into a little grocery store or a little market that a chef and a farmer curated,” he said. “Even though it’s small, we know you can buy two or three days worth of groceries that make sense together.”

Blue Shark Vodka set up during the weekend opening to offer sips of homemade Bloody Marys and martinis. Though CraftGrown doesn’t sell alcohol, it does procure ingredients to help build a perfect cocktail: bitters, Bloody Mary mix, private label peach cider for belinis, as well as pickled items aplenty, such as beets, or marinated Spanish olives and pickles in herbs. 

“You can build a charcuterie board easily here and go next door for a bottle of wine,” Scott said, pointing to Wilmington Wine abutting the space.

CraftGrown Market is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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