Brendan Davison, 43, the founder of Good Water Farms, grew up in Queens and moved to Amagansett seven-and-a-half years ago, after spending summers in Montauk. He took a cue from the Montauketts when naming the business. According to the Montauketts, Amagansett means “place of good water,” and if it was good enough for the Native Americans, it was good enough for him.Before he started his business in his driveway two years ago, he had studied the healing arts. More specifically, he studied energy medicine, in the Q’ero tradition. Working one-on-one with clients was not his passion. He wondered how he could reach more people and looked to his love of gardening.
It’s December, and while most farmers are winding down their long season, Mr. Davison never stops growing. He is a grower, he stresses, not a farmer. He grows his tiny but nutrient-packed greens all year long, mostly indoors, or at least inside a greenhouse, off Route 114 in East Hampton. No tractor needed.
He had dreams of leasing the property on Montauk Highway in Amagansett known as 555, but became frustrated with East Hampton’s slow process of vetting applications. While waiting for a decision from the town, Mr. Davison passed up many lucrative opportunities.
When we met a few weeks ago in his grow house, he had almost given up the wait. His hurt was palpable and his anger was sprouting like a new leaf from a seed.
Before meeting Mr. Davison, I, like a lot of people, thought of microgreens as somewhat ridiculous. A tasteless, almost useless garnish to be thrown on a plate for a pop of color. Oh, how wrong I was.
Good Water Farms is certified organic by the Northeast Farmers Organic Association (NOFA) using “the best seeds and the best soil” to produce microgreens that have 40 times the amount of nutrients than the full-sized version.
Microgreens, harvested within a week of planting, are the first “true” leaves which sprout during the plant’s cotyledon stage.
The plants are grown on rows of long tables in trays, under metal halide bulbs.
Mr. Davison is tall and lean with a shaved head and has a serious demeanor. He’s quiet yet not afraid to speak his mind. That said, he will never divulge his secrets.
When asked about his seeds and soil, he told me, “It has taken us years, a lot of money and work to find out the formula we are working with now. I just can’t give up that information.”
He will say that the best seeds are NOFA certified and “a good compostable soil that comes from certified organic grass-fed animals” make the best soil.
“It’s the soil that brings out the flavor and extra boost of nutrients,” he said.
He cites a study of 25 microgreens at the University of Maryland, “Assessment of Vitamin and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens” published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2012.
“In comparison with nutritional concentrations in mature leaves (USDA National Nutrient Database), the microgreen cotyledon leaves possessed higher nutritional densities,” the study concluded, “These data also may be used as a reference for health agencies’ recommendations and consumers’ choices of fresh vegetables.”
There are two components to Good Water Farms’ business model. Number one: they sell to hundreds of restaurants from Westhampton Beach to Montauk. Chefs from Nick and Toni’s, Fresno, the American Hotel, Almond and Topping Rose House cut their greens as needed right from the grow trays.
“It’s living,” said Mr. Davison, “That’s an important fact for me.”
Delivering live plants to chefs literally brings the farm into the kitchen.
The second component is selling to retail shops such as the national grocery chain, Whole Foods, which specializes in organic products.
Good Water Farms needs more space, however, to be able to fulfill the needs of such a large chain. There are 32 Whole Foods in the Northeast alone. That’s a lot of microgreens.
“Baldor wants to work with us,” he said, as well as the new hip local food delivery service, Good Eggs, based out of Brooklyn.
Good Eggs has plans to open a New York City store this spring, and then there is Fairway, another large New York grocer who is clamoring for Good Water Farms tasty morsels.
Locally, you can buy the greens, which come in 28 different varieties, (arugula, basil, broccoli, fennel, purslane and sorrel, to name a few) at the Amagansett IGA, Mary’s Marvelous, Naturally Good and Provisions.
In addition to the seeds and soil and the intense energy packed into the microgreens, the flavor and healthy nutrients come from the fact that the greens are so fresh.
“They lose nutrients once they are cut,” said Mr. Davison, who cuts his greens no longer than 24 hours before they are sent to stores.
Seventy-five percent of our greens come from California. After days or weeks of refrigeration and being trucked across the country, nutritional content has diminished. By the time we nuke them, sauté them or steam them, more enzymes are killed and we are lucky to get 15 percent of the nutrients.
“My goal in all this is to help people heal, then heal the earth,” he said, “It’s very shamanic, growing healthy greens.
“They are vibrating at such a high level, when you eat them. That then goes to the cells that are not vibrating,” he said, “Eating living greens links up with cells in the body.”
Good Water Farms would have fit in perfectly with what the town wanted for the 555 property. Unfortunately, the town lost a great business, employment opportunities and other benefits of having such a thoughtful steward at the site. In addition to the wait, other factors limited their ability to work in East Hampton.
“We decided not to go forward with 555 because of the greenhouse limitations in the Town of East Hampton. We are moving to a 34 acre farm in Bridgehampton. The Town of Southampton allows 10 percent coverage of Agricultural land. East Hampton only allows 3 percent coverage,” said Mr. Davison.
With the ability to expand, they are looking for petite greens, baby greens and mature leaf greens, in addition to a year-round Community Supported Agriculture, vegan classes and more.
“We feel that Town of Southampton supports us more than the town I started the business in. So Bridgehampton here we come!”