As I write this post, it’s August 2017, and we (Tarance and Wendy Zak) have owned this property for 18 months.
People often ask us why there are so many companies here, and the simple answer is ‘it’s complicated’. Like all good stories, it’s probably best to start at the beginning, so let’s try that:
In August 2015, when Tarance’s friend Dean, invited him to lunch, Tarance’s immediate suspicion was “he’s going to ask me to buy Greenview Nurseries”. Here’s some context – Greenview was a 50-year old company that, in its heyday, was a tree farm, wholesale nursery, greenhouse operation and garden centre. Over the last ten years, Greenview has been winding down until all that was left was a few greenhouse growing contracts.
After they sat down to lunch, Dean said “we want you to buy Greenview.” I wasn’t there, but I’m fairly sure that I was completely blamed for the fact that it was never going to happen. I suppose it’s good to have a husband who knows you, because when Tarance came home and told me, I said “well that’s never going to happen!”
And yet here we are. “How?”, you might ask.
It’s our children’s faults. We have three brilliant and delightful offspring (a completely unbiased opinion), two of whom had successfully made it through high school and out the other side of post-secondary. The third had just finished grade 11. For the last 22 years we had been focusing most of our attention on the children, and felt like we’d been coasting in many areas of our life. We also had enough RRSPs to last us a good 20 minutes into retirement and so we knew that when number three left school we needed to find a new direction.
Buying a 50 year-old nursery and 105 acres wasn’t quite what we had in mind. And this was a year ahead of schedule. But then, driving home from a weekend away, one of us said “yeah, but what if…?” After all, the land would give us an opportunity to expand our own tree farm, and it would make a great base for our landscape construction company. Plus, we were ready for a drastic change, and opportunities like this don’t fall in your lap every week. By the time we got home, we had talked ourselves into it.
Jumping in Feet First
Anyway, what could possibly go wrong? Sure, we’re in our 50’s … sure, we had just about paid off our house, and now we’ve replaced that equity with a terrifying amount of debt … sure, we were taking on 50 years of farm clutter … sure we were buying a wound-down operation and its aging infrastructure. But like I say, what could possibly go wrong?
During the winter of 2015, Tarance drove from our home in southeast Calgary to Greenview, almost every day. In even the coldest, snowiest weather, he laboured away, consolidating clutter into piles, taking down metal hoophouse frames that had been destroyed by snow, and clearing an area to put his tree holding yard. He made huge progress, but in terms of everything that needs clearing up, it was a drop in the bucket.
Then the owners asked us if we’d like to take over the greenhouse growing contracts they still had in place, and we thought “why not?”. We started growing in January 2016.
Even though we didn’t actually own the place until May 2016, we moved into the house in February, four days before we were due to be setting up a booth at the Home and Garden Show. From that point, we haven’t paused to draw breath, but we quickly learned that every day brings a new idea or a new opportunity.
Birth of a Horti-cult
When one of our landscaper customers came out here to buy a tree, Tarance took him for the tour, and he asked if he could rent a piece of land to create a permaculture display space. We’d never intended to be landlords, but it seemed like a good idea – an idea that took on a life of its own. Pretty soon we had eight tenants, all in the horticultural industry, all excited about the potential this little piece of land represents, and all keen to work collaboratively and cooperatively with each other.
As of this moment, we’ve got permaculture specialists, a compost and soil biology specialist, a company that grows native plant materials for reclamation projects, as well as edibles, a landscape maintenance company, an online plant store, an arborist and a rancher. Some of the projects we would like to work on together are a passive solar greenhouse and other sustainable gardening and farming schemes.
“You’ve got quite the community going there,” said our daughter. “No, it’s a horticult,” I said.
We’re Growing Big Dreams
We think this place is awesome! We’re planning to create a destination where people will want to come just for a visit and to see whatever’s new. So far we’ve reopened the garden centre under the name Bloomfield Garden Centre.
Gardeners are loving the high quality plants, most of which we grow ourselves in our own greenhouses and growing fields; animal lovers are having a blast with Scarlett the garden centre greeter dog and our friendly garden centre cats; and children love climbing on the log-lined raised beds and playing in the playhouse.
Our free-range eggs from happy chickens are proving a popular addition to our offerings – after all, where else can you meet the chickens who laid your eggs? And our peacock, peahen and four peachicks are also fun to see.
So this is where we are right now, but it’s just the start! Keep an eye on the blog, where I’ll keep you updated on anything that’s new, exciting, or just funny.