Local Hero Profile: The Gill Greenery
By Noah Baustin, CISA Program Coordinator
Published in CISA’s March 2018 E-Newsletter – Sign Up Here!
After working for 10 years as a technician for Verizon, Seay Minor was ready for a change. He enjoyed the comfortable benefits but he was tired of family time playing second fiddle to long work shifts out in the field. “In my heart, I wanted a business where I could work with my family,” Seay told me, standing in his renovated greenhouse on a blustery February morning. When a member of their church’s congregation announced that they were looking to sell their business, Seay and his wife Rebekah jumped on the opportunity. “The idea was that we could live together and work together. The whole thing. Becky and I both have a strong work ethic and we wanted to pass that along to the kids.”
The family of five—Rebekah, Seay, Ethan, EmmaRae, and Rachael—moved into the house adjacent to The Gill Greenery’s refurbished greenhouse in 2009, and since then the thriving sprout business has become the centerpiece of their lives and their diets. Seay may have fallen into growing sprouts by luck, but he’s come to swear by the product. His favorite obsession at the moment is onion sprouts; “I put it on everything,” he told me, “It drives my wife crazy but I love it – it’s just an incredible flavor.”
Seay doesn’t adore sprouts just because they’re tasty—he considers them a ‘super food’. “It’s the miracle of the seed: once you soak the seed and begin that germination process, all the nutrients that are necessary to grow the plant are present in the sprout. When you eat sprouts, you are consuming those nutrients rather than the plant consuming them.”
For such a nutritionally complex food, growing sprouts is surprisingly straightforward. After soaking their seeds in water for several hours, the Minors sanitize each batch with a citrus-based organic wash to prevent contaminants, then load them into their four-sectored sprout drum. Like some sort of glacially-paced washing machine, the drum makes only one full rotation every two hours. Fans and water sprayers keep the young sprouts in the ideal environment, and after four days the Minors return to harvest hundreds of pounds of freshly-sprouted sprouts that are ready to be sent off to local shops and restaurants throughout the Valley.
The Gill Greenery produces a full line of sprouts, including onions, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, and radish, as well as a salad mix combo and a crispy mix of legume sprouts. Keep your eye out for The Gill Greenery logo in Local Hero stores throughout the Valley including Greenfield Market, Fosters Market, McCusker’s Market, Big Y, River Valley Co-op, Cornucopia, and many more – the Gill Greenery serves over 70 wholesale customers throughout western MA as well as southern VT and NH!
Over the past nine years, Seay and Rebekah have had the opportunity to live their dream of running a truly family-oriented business. Seay reminisced with me about one of his proudest moments as a business owner and as a father; several years ago, Seay took an off-farm summer job to supplement the family’s income. When the Greenery’s delivery driver quit, the family was thrown into a panic—Rebekah had always managed the in-house side of the operation and Seay was out of town. Almost every one of their mom-and-pop customers has their own special needs for delivery and Rebekah was going to have to make dozens of deliveries across hundreds of miles.
Their eldest Ethan, only 13 years old at the time, took it all in stride. “He went out there and said ‘Don’t worry, Mom. I’ve got this.’” And he did. Not only was Ethan a savvy navigator as Rebekah’s co-captain, he was able to pass along every detail of each delivery to his Mother. “Not only had he learned the job, he learned how to teach it as well,” Seay reflected with pride. “That’s what we’re trying to do here, help the children develop their independence and ability to work together as a family. And we are able to do it.” Nearly a decade later, The Gill Greenery has truly lived up to Seay and Rebekah’s dream of working and growing together as a family.