When people drive by Stacey and Rob Tress’s house they sometimes stop in to ask why the Tresses grow corn in their front yard instead of grass.
Growing a “food forest” may be new to Yorkton residents, but it follows a set of ideas that are already quite trendy in larger centres like Calgary, said Stacey Tress.
The Tress family intends to build a customer base for their two businesses, Garden Therapy Yorkton and Prairie Permaculture, from people who “see what you are doing and (are) inspired to make a change.”
They volunteer for local organizations and spread the word about their business at a local level.
Garden Therapy Yorkton is a garden market that provides fresh produce to local residents through a weekly basket pick-up. Stacey Tress advertises the business through her website, Facebook, and word of mouth. It has been a three-year long journey for the market to make it to its first full operating year.
In 2009 Stacey and husband Rob Tress chose to make the leap from living in Guelph, Ontario, to be near Rob’s family in Norquay, end long commutes for Rob’s drywalling work and build a business in Yorkton.
Stacey Tress wanted to share her years of experience in the field of horticulture with the community by starting Garden Therapy Yorkton.
In 2010 she started a garden with “beautiful raised beds” which met a quick end during the July 1 flood. Her plan to start a garden market, where people could pick up a basket of her fresh produce, was postponed until the next year.
“It was a bit of a struggle. You get everything ready and then it gets wrecked,” said Tress.
In 2011, another distraction that kept Tress from fully committing to the garden market; newborn baby Julie, who is now 14 months old.
This year Tress has five people picking up the weekly baskets. This level of commitment leaves her free to advertise online if she has extra produce to sell. The flexibility of the job makes it possible for the new mom.
“Running a business, managing three Facebook pages, running a website and trying to pick produce as fresh as possible” on top of caring for Julie can be overwhelming but is well worth all the work, said Tress.
Continuing her education is important to Tress, even with her busy schedule and extensive background in horticulture. She received her Permaculture Design Certificate from an internationally recognized program in Manitoba several weeks ago and is currently attending another two-week Permaculture course in Colorado.
One of Tress’s goals is to introduce the concepts she learned to Yorkton residents through workshops and consultations with Prairie Permaculture. The idea of permaculture is to plan gardens, households, and even agriculture by “recognize patterns in nature and applying those to your designs.”
For example, weeds are a common problem for gardeners. They pop up when soil is exposed and lacking nutrition. Pulling weeds just leaves them more space to come back. But a permaculture-based solution is to cut weeds near the stem and laying them over bare soil to give the soil nutrition and cover the area so more weeds will not return.
She recognizes that the business will need to show what it has to offer before people show interest because of how new the concepts are to Yorkton. Breaking ground with locals takes time, but Tress feels that this community “is where we can make the biggest change.”
Interest in Garden Therapy Yorkton has “doubled or tripled” since the start of the year. An act as simple as a woman buying rhubarb for baking pies is one way that the Tresses are sharing with the community.
Composting and dehydrating workshops are just a few of the services they offer right now. A long-term goal for the family is for Rob to work fulltime as a permaculture instructor.
For now the Tresses are content building relationships in the community.