A Superior woman who found healing through gardening is bringing that joy, and the produce she grows, to the community. Natasha Lancour launched her new business, RoyalRoots Garden, in early February, offering nutrient-packed microgreens delivered straight to customers’ doors.
It started with a hunger. After two years of growing produce in her backyard garden, Lancour was impatient for spring to come.
“I wanted to grow something and I wanted to grow something fast,” she said.
After researching options, she decided to try microgreens. It offered the same satisfaction as traditional gardening, but indoors and on a much quicker timetable. Microgreens are edible seedlings that are harvested when they are 1-3 inches tall.
“And the first time I grew them, they were so lush, and they were so tasty and so good. I was like ‘Wow.’ So I wanted to grow more,” Lancour said.
She decided to share that “superfood” to others.
"That always happens with me when I grow. I'm like, 'I want to do more and share with the community. I want people to know what this tastes like,’” Lancour said.
They can be eaten as snacks, added to soups or pizzas, even blended with juice or fruit. It’s a small lifestyle change, but it can have a big impact. A study of 25 microgreens published in 2012 indicates that microgreens contain higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids (such as beta-carotene) — about five times greater — than the mature plants, according to the USDA.
The first delivery went to Ivy Vainio, of Duluth, who has used the microgreens on salads, sandwiches, eggs and more.
“I appreciate having access to garden grown, healthy microgreens as well as Natasha’s energy in promoting her products,” said Vainio, arts, culture and communications coordinator with the American Indian Community Housing Organization.
She said Lancour is an amazing person who has uplifted the community for years as a racial and social justice activist and advocate.
“Her energy steals the show every time in every aspect of who she is," Vainio said.
There has been trial-and-error involved in raising and selling microgreens, but customers have been supportive. They've left reviews and pictures of their microgreen dishes on the RoyalRoots Garden Facebook page.
“I call my business a ‘grow with me’ business, because my community is actually my business. It's growing with me,” Lancour said.
RoyalRoots Garden is one of a number of Black-owned businesses that have sprouted throughout the Twin Ports. Superior Mayor Jim Paine highlighted a number of them in a proclamation during Black History Month.
PREVIOUSLY: Superior celebrates Black business owners
“It’s long overdue in both the Twin Ports and surrounding communities. All people should have opportunities to thrive, to live, to work in their communities,” Vainio said. “It’s beautiful and empowering to see Black and racially diverse owned businesses starting up and those who have been established for some time.”
Rooted in healing
Lancour discovered her green thumb two years ago when she purchased a home with a large backyard garden near Pattison State Park.
“I just wanted to kind of like test it out, just try it and kind of make use of the land that I was blessed with,” she said, although she had a history of killing house plants.
Without any research, Lancour picked up seeds and planted them. Some were duds; others grew. She started researching what would grow best in her red clay soil, and took gardening more seriously the second year.
“I was determined to grow more but also to spend more time out there, because I was learning that, you know, I enjoyed being out there,” Lancour said. “It was a lot of spiritual kind of growth being out there and being one with nature and being one with the soil. A lot of thought process and a lot of healing in the soil.”
Corn, tomatoes and lush collard greens were among the fruits of her garden that year, more than her family could eat. She shared it with community members and combined what was left in a harvest meal, a symbol of the blessing of the garden.
This summer, she aims to add fresh garden produce to the RoyalRoots Garden deliveries and bring her homegrown vegetables to area farmers markets.
“I’m hoping my specialty this year can be collard greens,” Lancour said, something she’s looked for at local farmer’s markets but failed to find. “I grew up eating it and it’s so symbolic to who we are as a people. Collards plays a huge role in our holidays, it plays a huge role in our Sunday dinners.”
She also has plans to add a chicken coop and, in future, a community greenhouse to the property.
Planting seeds for the next generation
Lancour plans to share the healing power of gardening with area children this summer through a Royal Youth program that focuses on children of color. This year’s pilot will involve bringing six students age 13 and older to the property to raise gardens of their own.
She’s already started the seeds: Pumpkins, chili peppers and tomatoes for the youth boxes are sprouting in her studio next to the microgreens.
“I love her generosity, empathy and advocacy for community, especially when it comes to the next generation,” Vainio said. “We need more youth and community in general to learn and reconnect with our land and to locally-grown and healthy fresh foods.”
The program could grow friendships.
“You might find somebody that you can connect with that's going through the same issues and you find that healing that's collective,” Lancour said. “I'm hoping I can offer opportunities for them to be kids, for them to play some baseball, for them to go off to Pattison Park and enjoy a picnic, maybe write some music. So it's bigger than gardening. Gardening is just the, you know, the backdrop. Nature is the backdrop. The real work is the connection.”
Visit the RoyalRoots Garden Facebook page, call 218-310-7308 or email email@example.com for more information or to order microgreens.
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