Another Spring Arrives With Red Wagon

pansies red wagon

I thought I might be able to maintain some of my dignity while I attempted to fish half of a rapidly disintegrating cookie out of my hot coffee.

But, no. Of course Julie Rubaud noticed – there were only four of us at her little table in the greenhouse, and anyway I doubt she misses much of anything.

Julie, snorting: “Do you want a spoon?”

Me, blushing and vowing never to dunk cookies I didn’t know into my coffee again:

“Um…no, it’s okay, really….I mean… yes, please.”

To my instant relief, conversation turned back to the subject of plants. A great favorite of mine, though I could never say that my love of gardening is in the same league as Julie’s.  I highly recommend her extraordinary website to anyone dreaming of summer; though I must say the pictures, if you are of a romantic bent, may make you teary.  Beautiful doesn’t even come close to describing them, and Spring hasn’t started yet, after all.

Pansies in the greenhouse.
Pansies in the greenhouse, the season starts with these cold hardy plants.

We asked a great many questions, catching a farmer for your own personal interview is not an opportunity to be squandered.   I learned quite a few things, but one question in particular that I like to ask of farmers is how they started with Healthy Living in the first place. I love stories, so it’s often my favorite thing to find out.

Julie was farming with the Diggers’ Mirth Collective at the Intervale when she started. Aside: we work with the Diggers’ to this day, the Intervale is like the BTV bread basket, and both are super important to the local food movement around here. As she tells it, their focus was on having a short a season as possible.  I could guess as to the reasons, anyone living here in the winter could. Simply, the ratio of blissful summer days to tempestuous winter months is not in favor of a long growing season. So, anyway, the Diggers’ had their booth at the farmer’s market that was not being used some of the time, and Julie wanted to grow herbs to sell to other gardeners.

This is where Healthy Living comes in. We were in our first location at that time, and the owner and founder Katy Lesser is also an avid gardener. She bought herbs from Julie, becoming her very first wholesale customer, and expanding Julie’s reach to beyond the times when the Diggers’ weren’t using their spot at the market. It turned out to be successful enough for us to keep doing it and getting better at it every year since.

Then, with the question of “when was that?” (me again), Julie realized this year is the twentieth  which may have gone unmarked if not for that cup of coffee.

All photos are from the Red Wagon website, used with permission from Julie
All photos are from the Red Wagon Plants website, used with permission from Julie

As I sat in one of Julie’s greenhouses on that March day, I could see the connection between us.  Her start as a young farmer, going out on her own, selling herbs to Katy.  Our growth as a company from one location to another (to yet another), the growth of Red Wagon Plants from no greenhouses to I honestly don’t remember how many.  A succession of twenty springs, summers, falls, and winters. To me, having this conversation with her, checking in for the season and mentally planning my own garden. Also, being kind of awestruck by what exactly was going on there and grateful for the work of everyone who came before me.

Today I helped set up our plant starts at the store, feeling extremely happy to see this concrete sign of spring, proud to be a part of this relationship, and impressed with Julie, as always.

And still kind of embarrassed about that cookie.