Updated: Jul 7
Locally grown food is closer to home than you think. Vanessa Rosewood (formerly Hanel), owner and founder of Micro YYC, has been providing microgreens to local grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets all through the help of urban farming.
Specializing in microgreens, Micro YYC is a large-scale indoor urban farm located and operated right in the heart of Calgary. But it was only a couple years back that Rosewood was growing microgreens right in her basement.
At first, Rosewood only grew microgreens for the winter season with plans to move onto small-plot intensive farming.
“It just made sense to start with [microgreens] in the winter. I could easily put up a couple shelves in my basement,” says Rosewood.
Though as the weather started warming up and springtime arrived, Rosewood continued to tend to her indoor garden.
“I was so busy doing that, [that] I did not have time to go back outside,” says Rosewood.
Rosewood ran her urban farm in her basement for another two and a half years. Once her customer base grew, she moved her microgreens operations to a commercial space.
Microgreens and sprouts are different in how they are grown and how they are harvested.
“I like to compare them to sprouts, because most people know what sprouts are . . . but microgreens are actually a little bit different,” says Rosewood.
When cotyledon leaves appear, microgreens are ready for harvest. They are cut at the stem and are detached from their roots. Sprouts, on the other hand, are germinated seeds which consist of the seed root and stem.
“They’re very similar, but that’s usually where I start if someone has no idea what microgreens are—similar to sprouts, just grown a bit differently,” Rosewood adds.
Rosewood’s upbringing was far from the usual farming lifestyle—she grew up in the city and lived mostly in apartments. It wasn’t until she started attending the University of Lethbridge, that gardening and agriculture started playing an active role in her life. She caught wind of a committee supporting the formation of a campus garden, joined, and eventually ended up on the board of directors.
Starting with a small plot set up in the campus garden, Rosewood became more curious with the world of agriculture. She started thinking about local food, where it comes from, and how it’s grown.
With a Bachelor of Management and Masters of Science in Management, Rosewood wasn’t keen on following the traditional business careers paths.
“I was also focused on social responsibility, so I was trying not to go down a corporate path. But I didn’t really know what that was when I was still in school,” says Rosewood.
After some time with Organic Alberta, followed by an internship on a nearby rural farm, Rosewood’s interest in agriculture and farming eventually led her to start Micro YYC.
“I just love gardening. I still do and I didn’t think that it would become part of what I do day in, day out. But here we are,” says Rosewood.
From its humble beginnings in Rosewood’s basement to a full-scale urban farming operation, Micro YYC would not have flourished today without the help of community members.
Micro YYC is even part of a larger cooperative called YYC Growers and Distributors, which connects both rural and urban farmers in Calgary and its surrounding area. Additionally, the cooperative also provides locally grown produce through Harvest Box, a year-round program following a community-supported agriculture model.
With collaboration between farmers, grocery store partners, restaurant chefs, and even consumers, it builds a robust foundation for a local food system.
“Without my community, I wouldn’t have my business,” Rosewood says.
“It creates a more resilient system because people are helping each other out. People are looking out for one another.”
Celebrating International Women’s Day
Since Agriculture for Life last spoke to Vanessa Rosewood, Micro YYC has expanded with new developments. Still dedicated to creating sustainable food systems, Rosewood launched the Microgreens Club back in September 2021.
“Microgreens Club is our newest offering project. That was largely what I was working on when I came back and was trying to figure out an answer to the single-use plastics dilemma,” Rosewood says.
“I have been thinking about waste and packaging and recycling and things like that long before I started Micro YYC—and the question would come up fairly often.”
Micro YYC launched a subscription serviced for customers who want a constant supply of healthy, fresh, and accessible microgreens delivered straight to their door.
As an entrepreneur who started Micro YYC from her basement, Rosewood has always been an independent go-getter who did everything all on her own. But now that Micro YYC has evolved, Rosewood really emphasizes the importance of having a strong team behind her.
“I used to be really in the girl boss, hustle, boss babe sort of era of my life. And [while]that served me for a time—there's a season for hustling and being an independent woman,” Rosewood says.
Rosewood is still the strong girl boss behind Micro YYC, but every girl boss needs a supportive and great team.
“I'm really like 'rah, rah team' right now. Let people support you, ask for help, hire good people, don't try to do everything yourself. You do not have to do it yourself to prove yourself. I really am in a different era of life now and community is everything. Support is everything.”
Want to learn more about the wonderful women of agriculture for International Women’s Day? Check out some of our other Women in Ag profiles!