Spring is in bloom at Blue Ribbon Farm! They’re a gardener’s dream and offer a variety of flowers and plants to brighten any space. The farm is family owned and operated by John and Ginny Sipes and their sons, Charlie and Noah. It turns out small business ownership is much like farming – they both go through seasons and require hard work and dedication to spur growth. Ginny talked with me about the farm’s roots and how it grew to what it is today.
John and Ginny bought an existing Christmas Tree business prior to moving to Colorado. Due to the seasonality of that product, they decided they wanted to start a garden business to provide additional income in the spring and summer. In 1986, they began leasing and operating the gardening departments at a few Montgomery Ward stores in Denver. They both had to manage separate stores, meaning they spent lots of time apart, and after awhile, the commute from Longmont to Denver was taxing. John had a degree in Greenhouse Management and the desire to grow the plants for their business. So, when the farm became available for sale, they knew it offered a great retail space and the opportunity to grow their own product.
Looking back, Ginny says that the greatest benefit to owning this business is that her children became involved. Charlie and Noah always did what their parents did, helping at the farm and at local farmers markets since they were young. She says that through the experience, they learned horticulture, business, marketing and people skills. The farm allowed them to work as a family and grow the business together. Ginny is also amazed at the tremendous support they receive from their local community. As a small business, she says they can’t compete on price alone, so it means a lot that people choose to shop with them, instead of a a variety of big-box retailers.
Farming is very labor-intensive, which presents physical challenges, in addition to the other obstacles that small businesses face. Ginny notes that when you’re a business owner, no one is writing you paychecks, meaning that all of your income is self-generated. She says that’s a huge responsibility, as your income determines how you organize your life. However, Ginny tries not to get caught up in those worries and always focuses on the positive. (If you’ve ever met her, you know how she radiates kindness and positivity.)
Ginny sits on the board for the YMCA and is active in their educational farm program, which is a health initiative that teaches children to grow their own food. She also works with companies like Google, which have work days at the farm for their employees. She says that farming is a great way to bring everyone together and promote healthy living and social consciousness. Blue Ribbon Farm has also been active at the Boulder Farmers Market for over 20 years and Ginny says that they were “doing local before local was a buzzword.” She loves supporting small business awareness and teaching people about the importance of spending money in their community.
For any budding business owners, Ginny advises that you have to be able and willing to work seven days a week and manage your life around that schedule. She says that it’s important to do some soul searching prior to entrepreneurship because eliminating what you shouldn’t be doing can often point you in the right direction. If you face the common fears that your business isn’t good enough, big enough or doesn’t have enough money, Ginny says, “there’s always room for another good one.” By that she means that despite competition or a seemingly saturated market, you can succeed if you give it your best.
Just like a farmer, a business owner can plant a seed with a great idea, work hard to nourish it and help it grow and then look back years later and see what has flourished as a result. Blue Ribbon Farm is a great example of what happens when you combine your passion with hard work. If you haven’t been to the farm before, make sure to visit them soon. A trip there won’t only liven up your garden; it will brighten your whole day.
Photo Credit: Blue Ribbon Farm