By Andrew Fry
A New Food Paradigm
In spring 2021, the Fry family’s Renegade Acre microgreens made their successful debut at the Grow Newberry Farmers Market in Memorial Park. Their products were available at every market throughout the 2021 season! In early 2022, they expanded to on-demand local delivery in and around Newberry. While Renegade Acre’s tale is still being written, this article is intended to provide a snapshot of where Newberry’s urban farm came from, where it currently stands, and what its future might look like.
The Fry Family
Andy and Ruth Fry, along with their 3 children, moved from southern Ohio to Newberry in 2019 in search of a warmer climate when they purchased their first home in the Town of Friendly Folk. Originally a high school science teacher of 7 years, Andy always had an interest in indoor vertical farming. In 2014, his 11th and 12th-grade Geology class in Chesapeake, Ohio successfully grew green beans in a room without windows using only LED lights. The 2020 supply chain collapse served as a final push for Andy to follow his dream of vertical farming. He began building Renegade Acre Urban Farm.
Renegade Acre’s Main Crops: Fresh Microgreens
Microgreens are any plant at the stage of growth between sprouts and baby greens. Sprouts grow in either jars or trays and require no light or soil in order to fully germinate. They are eaten entirely, including the roots. Baby greens are grown well past the cotyledon stage (first true leaves) and are either grown in soil or hydroponically.
Microgreens are grown in trays with soil or shredded coco coir, under lights, and are harvested precisely at the cotyledon stage, roughly 2-4 inches tall, which takes 7-15 days depending on the variety. They are even in their own category and are regulated by state departments of agriculture as their own type of fresh produce!
Microgreens do not replace local, traditional salad greens. Instead, they open up a whole new world of possible meals to eat greens of any kind. Not only can they be eaten fresh on burgers, sandwiches, tacos, wraps, and more, but they can also be cooked into and onto almost any meal or put into smoothies for a nutritional bombshell. If that isn’t cool enough, microgreens stay fresh in the refrigerator for over 10 days! This all puts store-bought greens, which have a much higher carbon footprint, to shame. Support your local farmers. Buy local salad greens and embrace microgreens!
Renegade Acre grows and sells a premium microgreens salad mix, sunflower microgreens, dun pea microgreens, radish microgreens, broccoli microgreens, kale microgreens, and now cilantro microgreens! Salsa without the pungent cilantro flavor anyone? The possibilities are literally endless!
Decentralizing the Food Supply
Renegade Acre was founded on the idea that a stronger, more robust, and healthy food supply can only be formed if the production of the food becomes less dependent on single points of possible failure or threats that could create supply bottlenecks like cyberattacks. For this reason, Renegade Acre views itself as merely one node in an emerging local “food mesh economy” where producers barter with one another and sell to their immediate communities. Their entire urban style vertical farm on Epting street in Newberry is a tiny 120 square foot building with 2 large grow racks with lights, 2 tables, a sink, a refrigerator, and much more!
In addition to Grow Newberry Farmers Markets and via RenegadeAcre.com on-demand delivery, their microgreens are also available at Patchwork Farms in Saluda, South Carolina!
Seeding a Better Future
In addition to fresh ready-to-eat microgreens, Renegade Acre also sells vegetable, flower, and herb starts at the Grow Newberry Farmers' Markets.
They are also debuting a new line of high-quality seed products including some family heirloom varieties. Be on the lookout for their upcoming young urban farmer kits for kids and curious adults! These will make the perfect gifts!
Kids can swing by their booth at any of the farmers' markets for a free seed packet of their choice!
The Frys are dedicated to the community of Newberry and love showing it by helping beautify local public parks and open spaces. Renegade Acre has pledged to remove more trash from local parks and waterways by weight than what they use in plastic for their packaging. They also make donations to residents of Newberry upon anonymous request, which can be made by emailing renegadeacre@gmail. com or texting 740-646-0123 with details and they will do the best they can to fulfill the request.
The Future of Newberry’s Urban Farm
The future is bright for this young business, but operating such an innovative system is not without its costs. Renegade Acre owes everything to the fine folks that have backed it from the start. Its continued success and future also depend upon people being willing to give it a try and potentially embrace it as a long-term part of their meal plan.
Renegade Acre’s operation may be small, but they have the production capacity to grow an incredible amount of fresh food without expanding to a larger facility. They are constantly working to improve their systems to optimize space efficiency. In addition to the indoor microgreens farm, the Frys also operate a small, ever-expanding market garden where they grow Roma tomatoes and more each year. These can also be found at the summer farmers' markets!
Do you like what the Fry family is doing and want to support it? If you would like to make a one-time donation to Renegade Acre, their website has a farm patron donation section just for that purpose. Every penny helps! If you or your business are interested in becoming their primary or a secondary farm sponsor, reach out to Andy at 740-646-0123 for more information.
Add RenegadeAcre UrbanFarm as a friend on Facebook and follow @ NewberryUrbanFarm!
Schedule delivery of fresh, tender microgreens today!
Meet the Fry family at the Grow Newberry Farmers Market!