Stephanie launched Oui Sprouts from her home farm at 621 E. Locust, in Riverwest, Milwaukee, in mid-December, 2006, when Leslie Peterson, Prepared Food Manager of Outpost Natural Foods, called asking for a better wheat grass product for the 3 Outpost Co-ops. Nicole Penick, Stephanie’s partner in the Food Reclamation Society had told Leslie about Stephanie’s 20 years of organic farming experience, and of her readiness to provide locally grown, organic wheat grass for juicing for the Outpost Cafes.
This was the call that launched Oui Sprouts! Stephanie drew up a contract and a schedule for planting wheat “berries” to insure a steady supply for all three co-ops. Over the next few weeks, Stephanie built the trays to grow the wheat grass, converted a spare room into a grow-room, gathered about 20 gallons of “black gold” from Growing Power, and ordered the seeds from the Outpost Bulk Foods Department.
The first step found Stephanie soaking the wheat berries overnight in a fertile water solution, i.e. a combination of Will Allen’s worm casting “tea” and fish emulsions. This insures that the berries start out fertilized and nutrient rich. After 24 hours the berries are drained and rinsed twice in spring water, which Stephanie gets from the co-op.
This is done for two consecutive days, i.e. rinsing and draining, until the first “tongues” or “root tendrils” appear on the berries. Then the berries are gently spread across the top of the Growing Power “black gold” medium, i.e. worm castings. The berries are heavily watered(almost floating in soil) in the same fertile water solution. They are then covered and kept in the dark for two days. This procedure make them root faster.
After these two days, the tendrils are about one inch tall and are uncovered and exposed to light. From there, as Stephanie explains, “we just water and grow with two fans providing constant air circulation(so the plants don’t mold).” Wheat grass should only be grown for eight to ten days to insure optimum nutritional value.
Stephanie love of planting derives from several sources. She was raised on a horse ranch in Michigan, where her Mother, Joyce, raised organic turkeys for the holidays, chickens for the freshest eggs on the planet(orange!), and honey dew melons sold to members of the First Baptist Institutional Church.
After college at De Paul University in Chicago, a Jesuit school where Stephanie majored in Cultural Anthropology, she answered an ad for a personal chef to cook for the staff at Angelic Organic Biodynamic Farm in Caledonia, Ill. Once there, it was natural for Stephanie to do farming as well as cooking, ordering, canning, preserving, seed inventory, and writing the newsletter.
Please send a note to Ouisprouts@milwaukeerenaissance.com if you would like to learn more about this worthy project.