A Navy veteran and former information technology employee, Tenita Solanto didn’t come from a traditional farming background. But after attending an Urban Farming Seminar at the Minority Landowners Conference hosted by Fayetteville State University, everything changed.
“After that conference, I was so excited about farming that I began to put a plan together detailing the type of farm I wanted to create,” says Solanto, who now owns Green Panda Farms in Siler City. “After much research and tasting, I fell in love with the idea of growing microgreens – a nutritious superfood.”
Microgreens are tiny, edible greens that offer a variety of leaf flavors, such as sweet and spicy, Solanto explains. They’re extremely nutritious, packing more vitamins and nutrients in their little leaves than some full- grown plants, including vitamins A, C, E and K. This is what makes them part of the “superfood” category, which refers to foods that are very nutrient rich. Other foods that fall under the superfood label include sweet potatoes, kale, avocado and blueberries.
Microgreens can be used to elevate the flavor of any dish, Solanto says. Green Panda Farms grows produce year round and sells at farmers markets, local grocery stores, through distributors and online for delivery in the Triangle, Triad and surrounding areas.
“We grow a wide variety of microgreens, shoots, wheat grass and other produce for local chefs, caterers and health-conscious consumers,” Solanto says. “Some of our customers’ favorite ways to use our greens is adding them to eggs, sandwiches, soups and more. Sunflower shoots and wheat grass are great for juicing.”
Solanto began her business in Raleigh, but with the help of a Rural Advancement Foundation International grant, she was able to expand her business to a location in Siler City, and it’s only growing.
“This year, we’re expanding our farm,” Solanto says. “The new addition of space will allow us to add a variety of other superfoods to our offerings, and customers will be able to come to the farm to purchase products as well as tour it and learn about various agricultural practices.”
She hopes to not only increase the volume of products Green Panda produces, but also expand to reach other markets so that North Carolinians and beyond can enjoy delicious, healthful foods.