A Microgreens Farm Grows in Asbury Park

At Good Feeling Farms, brothers Joe and Chris Chiappetta pursue the latest innovation in agriculture.

On the other side of the tap room at Asbury Park Brewery, in a high-ceilinged industrial space with not a whiff of barnyard in the air, you’ll find a pair of brothers cultivating a thoroughly modern farm.

It’s soilless, it’s vertical, it’s pesticide-, herbicide-, fungicide- and insecticide-free, and its state-of-the-art LED technology lights the way to continual growth of microgreens ranging from arugula and spicy mustard to red Russian kale and amaranth.

The 2,500-square-foot space is called Good Feeling Farms, and it’s where Joe and Chris Chiappetta work to supply distributors who in turn bring their nutrient-rich, flavor-intense microgreens to top restaurants in the region.

Lights give seedlings their start at Good Feeling Farms.

“Every week, we sell about 70 to 75 pounds of microgreens,” Joe says. “Our model is that we sell to distributors only.” Distributors include New Jersey-based Cuttler Produce, Driscoll Foods, AgriExotica, J. Ambrogi and FarmArt, for example—and every week they start afresh with new crops of microgreens.

The brothers, who grew up in Basking Ridge, started farming in a basement in Belvidere, in the historic Apollo House, which was a station on the Underground Railroad.

The move from Warren County to Asbury Park allowed them not only to expand into an economically viable enterprise, but be part of the kind of community in need of an employment-providing farm.

Joe Chiappetta inside the dark germination room.

“We want to be in a depressed urban area,” Chris says, “to work with (partners) like Kula,” an Asbury Park urban farm with a cafe and training program that engages local residents and trains them for employment in the hospitality industries. “We want to hire people who go through the Kula program.”

“’Cause that works,” interjects Paul Chiappetta, father of Chris and Joe.

Paul continues: “These two guys grabbed a dream and ran with it. It’s not fancy AeroFarms (a massive urban farm in Newark) here; it’s boot-strapped.”

Joe nods. “We still have the ability to have an impact, to make a difference,” he says. “We can give back.”

Meanwhile, they farm: Their process starts with sanitization, cleaning and sterilizing everything that’s part of growing microgreens. Onto a layer of burlap go the seeds, which then are sprayed with water and transferred to a germination room. There’s no light, just high humidity and high temperatures.

“That can be tricky in the winter,” says Paul, smiling.

After two days of germination, Chris and Joe move their itty-bitty greens to “grow chambers,” where they mature within days into full-fledged microgreens. Then the process begins again—every week, 52 weeks a year.

Chris Chiappetta fills a clamshell container with microgreens.

The Chiappettas continually look ahead; their idea is to bring Good Feeling Farms to many urban areas in New Jersey, to spread around not only the nutritional value of their microgreens, but to teach and to provide employment.

That’ll take a bit of change in the mind-set of banks, since “there is no such thing as traditional financing for farms,” Joe says.

“We own the equity in the farm,” Chris adds, “but banks are so risk-averse” when it comes to agriculture.

The brothers will not be deterred. Tastes of their microgreens inspire confidence in their vision: Micro-arugula is intensely peppery and the freshness is peerless; it’s crisp, ready to top pizza, stuff into tacos or sandwiches, use in an omelet or frittata, or toss with salads and set atop stir-fries.

Pop Paul notes: “These microgreens last two weeks—at least!—in the fridge.”

Good Feeling Farms is located on the far side of the Asbury Park Brewery, 810 Sewall Avenue in Asbury Park, but its entrance is at 811 Monroe Avenue. It is not open to the general public. The best way to experience Good Feeling Farms’ microgreens is to ask your favorite restaurant or market to acquire them through one of the distributors noted above. For information, call 908-528-3882, email [email protected], or visit www.GoodFeelingFarms.com.

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