The Hartford Plant Company Thrives on the Swift Campus.
There’s more than plants growing at The Hartford Plant Company. Yes, there’s a keen mind at the helm and deft hands are moving the operation smoothly along . But, something that only comes from the heart is at the root of it all. It’s called love—the kind you can only get from family.
It all began when Matthew Collins Collins left his native Cleveland, Ohio to attend the Univ. of Texas as an undergraduate in 2005. He then attended graduate school in NYU for a while before leaving New York in 2012 for Boston to attend Harvard where he got his PhD in Italian Literature.
And, then the stars aligned. While working a teaching gig at Harvard, Collins planned to attend a soccer finals match between Spain and Italy. It was cancelled. So on the way home, Collins grabbed a stool at a local neighborhood bar. At the bar next to him was a young lady named Anastasiya. She was a social worker who had recently graduated from UMASS. At 22-years-old , she came to America in 2008 from Minsk, Belarus for an English immersion program but never returned after learning her country was embroiled in yet another cycle of political violence.
A conversation was struck up between the two. A relationship began. And, in 2013, the two were married! Soon, Anastasiya began attending UCONN Law School and the couple moved here to Hartford in 2016 with Collins commuting back and forth to Boston while teaching at Harvard and finishing up his Phd until his wife graduated. She is now a working lawyer, commuting to Trumbull from Hartford a few times a week. So what does all of this have to do with plants? Nothing, so far. It’s just another love story, right? Well, it’s not over. Because, it was love that brought Anastasiya’s mother Valentina to America to be with her in October of 2020. And, it was her life-long love of plants from which the seeds of The Hartford Plant Company sprouted.
Collins recounted that his mother-in-law grew up off of the grid. “Valentina grew up in Siberia. Her father worked on a project to build extensions of the trans-Siberian railway,” he said. “That is where her skills in planting come from.”
Collins said the skill never left her, following her from the wilderness of Siberia to the same Soviet-era “concrete jungle” she lived in for 30 years before coming to America. And, when she got here, planting became her primary activity, as well as a way of expression.
“When she got here she had nothing to do and passed her time propagating begonias. They were beautiful. She has real growing skills,” Collins said. Soon after, the family began exploring ways for Valentina to capitalize off of her love for plants. They decided to go into a venture growing some kind of plants. “It’s why we named the company The Hartford Plant Company. We knew we would grow plants. We just didn't know what kind. It wasn’t about micro-greens in the beginning,” Collins said.
After a bit of research, micro-greens seemed to be the best option for the start-up business. Collins said they found the nutrient density of microgreens is many times larger than that of their larger counterparts and it takes much less space and time to grow micro greens. “Microgreens have up to 280 times more given nutrients than full grown plants. We started growing in our kitchen and then word got out. By the summer, we needed more space,” Collins said.
After a short search, they came to the Swift Campus where The Hartford Plant Company is thriving and Valentina is a constant presence. Microgreens bring great benefits to nutrition, but those benefits don’t come by chance. She is at Swift honing her craft continually. “The harvest comes only after 1 to 3 weeks. So, things have to be very precise. She’s really good at this. The restaurants love our product. They love Valentina,” Collins said. He added, The Hartford Plant Company is actively seeking to partner in providing micro greens to school systems. “We can partner in leading, bringing healthy choices to school meals,” he said.
As far as being at Swift, Collins is satisfied with his experiences so far and is excited about new developments for this year. “I love the common areas. We have a nice business community here. Businesses are in operation where they weren’t. You have kids going to school here. And, the library is coming this year. This is all great stuff,” he said. And, you know we love this part at Swift. He is seeking to hire someone to help with watering the microgreens. Who knows? North Hartford might have a little Valentina out there falling in love with plants!