Road side vegetable stands, sunflower fields and local honey... are there any more sought-after summer experiences in the countryside these days? Then picture all of this run by kids! Meet the Hutlet kids... they have combined their obviously green thumbs with creativity, an interest for trying new things and their ability to work very hard. They have turned this passion into a business that is very inspiring and relevant to the current movement to "support local" and "know where your food comes from"! I have personally pulled over when I saw their sign and bought delicious corn in the fall from their stand.
*Thank you to Corinne Hutlet (mom to these 4 amazing kids) for helping me with this Local County Stories interview. Read below about how this all started, what they accomplish together, and what they have to say to encourage kids who may want to start a business of their own too!
How did "Green Thumb Kids" start?
Green Thumb Kids started eleven years ago when our oldest son was five years old. We started growing plants for sale with him in our greenhouse as part of a home school project that encompassed math and science. He fell in love with his project and didn’t want to stop and begged to do it year after year. As they came along, his siblings have all fallen in love with the project as well and it has blossomed into "Green Thumb Kids": a kid-run seedling greenhouse, market garden and sunflower field photography venue.
What does "Green Thumb Kids" Offer?
Tomatoes seedlings were and still are one of their first loves! Last year the Green Thumb Kids grew forty-two varieties of tomatoes. Selecting the varieties is a ton of fun for everyone and involves sales records from previous years and seed catalogs spread all over the table as the seed orders are completed, one by one. Green Thumb Kids still transplant their seedling tomatoes by hand and that is one of their biggest challenges; 1600 tomatoes, each transplanted by hand. The process takes us about two weeks.
Many of the kids’ customers pre-order their tomatoes, vegetable and herb seedlings from our online store. Each order is then filled and boxed a day or two before the sale. Keeping track of orders and making sure the order boxes aren’t missing anything is another big challenge.
The Green Thumb Kids also run a roadside stand. In later summer, every day at noon they load the farm stand and our fridge-on-wheels with fresh vegetables. We use an honour box system for the times when we are busy with farm work or running errands. The system has worked well for us. We also leave out a receipt book so the customers can let us know what they have bought. Some of the Green Thumb Kids' best sellers at the farm stand are sweet corn, rainbow carrots and rainbow potatoes (that they have bred themselves!) multi-coloured packs of cherry tomatoes, and sweet onions.
The sunflower field is open (come bloom time) by appointment for photographers - professional or amateur - to book for photography sessions. Bloom time is weather dependant and updated regularly on Facebook.
What do they do for Fun?:
"Fun" for the Green Thumb Kids is very often playing with the animals we have on our farm, exploring on their bikes, swimming in our pool, reading great books, trying new things and travelling near and far. They always have lots of projects on the go besides gardening. All of them play two or three instruments. Kainen works at farmers markets as a balloon artist and keeps honeybees to keep our farmstand stocked with fresh honey. Kamrynn has a duck hatching business, Aliyah delights in caring for her animals, and Alex is our family scientist and inventor.
Working with siblings can be super fun or super challenging, depending on the day. The Green Thumb Kids manage this by each taking responsibility for certain plants and following through on their personal goals and projects individually. But the real fun happens when they all work on their projects nearby the other siblings or all team up to make something big happen. The sunflower field photography venue is an example of a team-up project. Seeding, watering and weeding by hand more than a 1/4 acre of sunflowers requires “all hands on deck”!
How do they do it all?/ Advice to other kids?:
If you were to ask the Green Thumb Kids how they manage to do this all they will probably give you a big smile and maybe even laugh because they get asked that so often. And they would tell you that people forget that kids are super capable of doing almost anything if given enough encouragement, trust and time and are often just underestimated. And they would tell you that they are pretty ordinary, just super-focused and motivated kids who have a lot of great ideas that their parents always (almost) say "yes" to.
They often tell other kids who want to run a business that “kids can do it! And not be scared of failing and to try anyway, even if it seems big or scary.
How can people best follow Green Thumb Kids?
Following Green Thumb Kids Sherwood Park on Facebook is the best way to keep updated on what is available out at the farm stand that week. The farm stand opens around early August and closes mid October or whenever day time temperatures start staying below zero. Again, the sunflower field is open (come bloom time) by appointment for photographers - professional or amateur - to book for photography sessions. Bloom time is weather dependant and updated regularly on Facebook.
@greenthumbkidssherwoodpark on Instagram.
Also found on the Local County Website.
Are you inspired now? If you live in the Sherwood Park area or are driving through, watch for the signs, Wye Road, East of Highway 21.
photos provided by Corinne Hutlet