By Lura Roti, for SDSU Extension/iGrow.org
Carrots don't grow on vines like tomatoes, a fact all gardeners understand. Yet, if you've never pulled a carrot top, unlodging the vibrant vegetable from the soil, it may be one of many misunderstood food facts, explains Anna Maifeld, owner of Glory Garden, an online source for fresh, local produce and eggs.
"A mom was visiting my garden with her kids and was shocked to learn carrots grow underground," Maifeld says.
How vegetables are grown and harvested is one of many reasons, the young entrepreneur invites Glory Garden customers to visit her Crooks garden throughout the growing season.
"Visiting the garden helps (customers) be closer to their food," she explains. "Knowing where your food comes from and being connected with the person who grows it, is really what's at the heart of the local food movement."
Her ability to connect with customers has helped the 21-year-old grow her business.
"When I first started, I thought I'd spend 90 percent of my time in the garden and 10 percent of the time marketing."
In reality, Maifeld says she spends more time marketing her business than she does in her garden - posting recipes, blogging, maintaining her website and giving presentations to potential customers.
The 4-H alumnus credits her confidence in presenting information and answering questions to the years of serving as a club officer, giving talks, public presentations and judging competitions she participated in throughout her 4-H career.
As a young 4-Her "I was nervous and my voice would get shaky." Overtime and with years of practice giving presentations and answering judge's questions, "I became pretty confident and, today, I am no longer nervous."
Maifeld recently gave a five-minute presentation on Glory Garden to a group of more than 50 during a 1 Million Cups event in Sioux Falls.
"4-H definitely helped me with that. If I had not done 4-H, I would have fallen through the floor. I simply would not have had the confidence," she says of the event that introduced a few new consumers to Glory Garden.
Glory Garden: Giving Customers a Choice
Four years ago, before launching Glory Garden, Maifeld was like many 17-year-olds. She spent a lot of time in the months leading up to graduation trying to figure out what she wanted to do after high school. She knew that she did not want to pursue a college degree. She knew she loved gardening.
"I liked gardening, being outside - even weeding. I thought, 'if I could be outside, working in the sun and getting exercise, and if I could make a business out of this, that is what I wanted to do,'" she recalls.
Maifeld began doing research to determine how she could turn her passion for gardening into a viable career. She considered the CSA (community supported agriculture) business model. In this model, customers pay a yearly membership fee to a vegetable grower in exchange for a weekly supply of fresh produce.
Through her research, she discovered customer retention in a traditional CSA model was only 30 percent.
"To me that didn't seem sustainable. I didn't want to have to rebuild my customer-base each year," Maifeld says. "What I heard from CSA members is they don't get to choose what vegetables they receive. What if they don't like eggplant? Or, they don't know what to do with a pound of rutabagas?"
Listening to this feedback, Maifeld designed Glory Garden to give customers the option to select the type and quantity of produce they wanted to purchase.
"I wanted to give my customers a choice of what they received," she explains. "And, I didn't want to spend my Saturdays at a Farmers Market wondering if the produce I grew and picked would sell."
Twice each week, during the growing season, she takes an inventory of what is ready to pick and then posts that information on her website. Customers select the vegetables they want and the quantity. Maifeld picks the fresh vegetables and delivers the produce to her customers at one of six pick up locations.
Four years later, her Glory Garden continues to expand. In the off season, Maifeld dedicates time to making homemade rag rugs and other items for her Etsy shop and running a sewing/alteration business.
"I enjoy the fact that by owning my own businesses I get to spend my time doing what I enjoy. That is also challenging, because when there is a job to be done, no matter how long it takes, there is no one else here to do it but me," she says.
To learn more about Maifeld and Glory Garden, visit the Glory Garden website.
To learn about how you can become involved in 4-H as a member or volunteer, contact your local SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor. A complete listing can be found at iGrow under the Field Staff Listing icon.
Courtesy photo. Anna Maifeld is the owner of Glory Garden, an online source for fresh, local produce and eggs. She credits 4-H with helping her develop skills necessary to grow her business.