Born in England and raised in Kenya, Becky Sell found her way to Mallorca during a gap year. The Spanish island became her home base as she worked as a stewardess and a deck hand on private yachts that would come into port. She had the opportunity to see the world and even sailed on a classic boat that raced in America’s Cup. Nowadays, she has put down roots on the island as she charts a course as a novice microgreens farmer.

Becky and a friend ran a catering business for a few years. But after getting married, she focused on raising her three sons — now 13, 10 and 5 years old. When the youngest was three, she decided she was ready to go back to work. “I wanted something of my own,” Becky remembers.

Dreaming of being a farmer one day
Becky had been enchanted by the English countryside of her childhood with its rustic stone farmhouses and sheep frolicking on grassy hillsides. She dreamed of being a farmer one day. The idea of her tending a vertical, indoor farm came through Becky’s father who was intrigued by a television program. He was in the self-storage business and thought Becky might make use of an unused basement space. Her bucolic fantasy farm had not included abundant harvests springing from coconut fiber in a sunless room underground. But the world was emerging from COVID lockdowns, and the time seemed ripe for a new adventure.

Making the dream reality
Once she discovered Instagreen, Becky traveled to Barcelona for a comprehensive 3-day training. The first revelation was tasting the bold flavors of a variety of microgreens for the first time. “I knew about microgreens, but I never actually tasted them before.”

Pronouncing the training “amazing” and finding all questions patiently answered, she returned to Mallorca to launch Planet Greens. When the growing systems arrived at her storage unit on Mallorca, she compared it to the experience of an Ikea delivery. She was so pleased with the detailed instruction and user-friendly design. It was simple to assemble the growing levels and attach the lighting and irrigation systems.

Best thing I had ever done. I can work and be with the kids.

The InstaGreen team was standing by when Becky needed some trouble shooting. Though some of the plants struggled at first, she learned the art and science of raising hardy, flavorful microgreens. In time, Becky was delivering live greens to a few shops, restaurants, and eager parents at her sons’ school. But there were challenges. An agricultural license was hard to come by working from a commercial facility. Becky was authorized to keep the farm because she was “storing” the greens. And as profit margins were slim, she knew she would save money if she moved her farm to her home in the countryside- an area much more open to agricultural ventures.

Her garage, it was decided, would become a growing room. “Moving the farm to my home was the best thing I had ever done. I can work and be with the kids.” Her husband and the boys are helpful farmhands. Tackling the big job of washing growing trays while listening to music is an enjoyable family pastime.

Finding there was already a lot of competition for live greens, Becky switched to selling cut greens. She would need to raise prices to offset the extra labor costs of hand cutting and packaging the microgreens. While cut greens were already coming from the mainland, vendors were willing to pay more for produce that had been harvested just the day before going on display.

Getting that highly desired organic seal
From the beginning, Becky set her mind on getting a coveted organic seal although it is notoriously difficult for microgreen farmers to earn the certification. “There are so many gray areas,” she explains. But first, she had to register her business. Once the wheels were set in motion, Becky jumped through the first regulatory hoop by setting up a harvesting room separate from the growing area. At first, authorities debated whether she would be required to wash her microgreens in chlorine, but since her environment is controlled and very clean, with no soil borne disease, fertilizers or pesticides, the regulation was not imposed. Following many months of perseverance and paperwork, Becky Sell became the first microgreen farmer on the Balearic Islands to receive organic certification.

The organic label paid off when Becky hit the motherload by making a deal with a popular organic store, Agromart, known for quality and gorgeous fruits and vegetables presented like jewels in misted displays. This was a result of a happy accident. A German newspaper had published a story about the farm and falsely reported that Becky was in talks with Agromart. Becky felt a responsibility to address any rumors. She approached the produce manager at the store near her kids ’school. In the end, an actual business relationship was built on an apology. Planet Greens products are now offered in three palate-pleasing flavors: suave (mild), picante (spicy) and the popular Asian mix which is comprised of daikon, cilantro and Thai basil.

It’s amazing how fast you learn and grow
“When I got my first order from Agromart, I was really panicked,” Becky admits. “They have 22 stores on the island and so it was such a big deal. But it’s amazing how you learn and grow. I’m really on top of when I need to seed and harvest.” Becky is grateful that she works in a controlled environment. Unlike other traditional farmers such as her friend who grows edible flowers outdoors, the blistering summer heat did not disrupt her delivery schedule.

Becky remembers from her InstaGreen training that landing a reputable distributor can be a holy grail for small farmers, “It takes so much stress out of everything.” She no longer needs to chaise many small clients across the island. The store did a marketing campaign for her, but the infinitely photogenic greens also sell themselves. Becky describes how store staff directed her not to block the lid of the container with labels. The sight of lush greens packed with flavor would be enough to entice customers.

What the future holds
In just two years Planet Greens has enjoyed incredible success with Becky at the helm. The business is pretty profitable now. Becky has since found another big distributor and continues to deliver pea shoots and living cilantro to yachts through provisioning companies. Her biggest expense is energy required to maintain optimal climate conditions, but solar panels are defraying the cost.

Becky sees the potential to scale up and perhaps invest in some hired help. She could double the growing space in the garage and an available shipping container can be transformed. But the last two years have seen quite a frenzy of activity as her business has taken off. Becky has planned to first let the dust settle and will take a breather for a few months. She wants to make sure she has time to meet some of her most loyal customers individually. After a long summer absence, the parents at her kids’ school eagerly await Thursdays when Becky pulls up in the parking lot with her cooler of microgreens. And when not busy with deliveries, Becky will be enjoying some quiet time.

“I love being in my room alone with the microgreens.” She says, “It’s a very calming place to be.”

For more information:
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hello@instagreen.eu
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