Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Meet The Gardendwellers!

Please meet Holly and Barry, The Gardendwellers! They have a beautiful herb farm in Churchs Ferry, ND, population 10. Their business had sparked up from Holly's passion for herbs since she was 14 years old. Her family had a garden, and she grew all different kinds of herbs then.

When in 2002 she told Barry: "Honey, we are going to sell herbs". His reply was: "What?". Coming from a long family line of printers and business owners, he didn't know then that after 25 years in printing he'd become a full time happy farmer!

Their dream was to build a successful business in a quiet rural setting and incorporate both Barry's experience and Holly's knowledge of herbs, plus her professional qualifications in Horticulture with an emphasis in Landscape Design and a degree in Career and technical Education. Their mission is: "to take so many people to the middle of nowhere that it becomes somewhere."

And what an example of perseverance and creativity they are! In 2002, when they started the business, they lived in Devils Lake, 17 miles or so north from Churchs Ferry. They had commuted back and forth for two years and worked hard to prepare and cultivate the soil. It was all covered in tall prairie grass.

They took a straw bale building workshop, but decided that they didn't have enough building experience to build a house for themselves. So in 2004 they bought a used mobile home, moved in to the town of Churchs Ferry and have been very happy ever since!

Having a coherent business plan from the very start, has helped them to get on a right track to success. They have been growing the same herbs since they started. The two new ones added recently were stevia and cilantro. Neither Holly nor Barry had any interest in planting cilantro because they disliked the smell and flavor of the herb (which is one of my absolutely favorite, by the way!). But when the Food Network finally had reached North Dakota audience, people at the farmer's market started inquiring about cilantro and the sales of other culinary herbs have gone noticeably up.

The first time they harvested cilantro Barry was very skeptical about "who would actually buy this stinky herb". When they were sold out by 9 in the morning, he said: "Honey, we've got to plant more cilantro!".

Their business has been growing year by year, trying to keep up with the demand, as they are the only herb farm in the whole of North Dakota! Everybody wants their herbs! But they had found out that it was really hard to deliver their product to far away places. Since they strive for the best quality in their herbs and take pride at their produce, it was crucial for them to be able to deliver the herbs within 24 hours after being harvested. That's why they have stopped on three major cities in the vicinity of the location of their gardens. This way they didn't have to sacrifice quality for quantity.

With no other viable option for a speedy delivery service, Barry is the one who delivers packaged herbs to a few grocery stores and herbs in bulk to restaurants in Devils Lake, Grand Forks (100 miles east of Churchs Ferry), and Minot (100 miles west of Churchs Ferry). Their Saturdays they also spend selling the herbs at a farmer's market in Grand Forks.

Holly and Barry have taken their business onto a very professional level. They take as much time for marketing as they take for gardening. They have a phenomenal website (you can check them out here :, great packaging and a logo that stands out and speaks for itself (I just loved two chubby stick people with the spades and a heart in between!). They have been conducting workshops, public lectures, participating in conferences, organizing special events on the farm, like a Beer Dinner (by invitation only) or a Produce Party (a more creative alternative to a farmer's market).

Since my dream is to have an herb garden one day, staying and learning on Gardendwellers Farm was right up my alley!


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