Randall Rhyne’s career has included teaching high school biology and earth science as well as serving in the Army Reserve, with deployments to Iraq and Syria.
After visiting Wilmington last year, he fell in love with the city and decided to relocate from Virginia.
While serving overseas, Rhyne and his unit often had little to no access to fresh food, relying on MREs or snacks like Pop Tarts. He often longed for fresh produce.
One spring when he was in the Syrian desert, he saw trucks hauling locally grown produce and found himself thinking that if the locals were able to grow their own food in the middle of a civil war, in a desert, there was no reason why he couldn’t do this at home. As soon as he returned to Virginia, Rhyne got to work.
Now, having secured a Castle Street storefront and growing space across from Luna Café on Castle Street last fall, Rhyne has created CraftGrown Farms, an indoor, hydroponic farm selling nutrient-dense microgreens, hydroponic lettuce and herbs to local restaurants and the public.
All of the growing is done inside, allowing CraftGrown Farms to produce year-round and the ability to expand its growing capacity.
Rhyne said the response so far has been remarkable; in fact, he’s already outgrown his initial vertical grow system.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Rhyne said.
He said new customers are usually so excited about what they’ve tried that they want to take home more than they need.
“I’m an old school believer in the quality of the sale and even though these items have a good shelf life, I try to discourage people from buying too much at once,” Rhyne said.
CraftGrown Farms only harvests what it sells, so the produce is picked right in front of the customer, providing maximum flavor and freshness.
There are currently about a dozen microgreen blends available, as well as leafy greens such as kale, arugula and tatsoi. The microgreens will keep in a vegetable crisper for two weeks, and all of the lettuce is sold with the root ball intact to preserve flavor and freshness.
“These are not your everyday lettuces,” Rhyne said.
CraftGrown Farms is located at 603 Castle St. and is open from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.