This weekend marks the end of the first year for the winter farmers market at Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery, located between Cortez and Dolores. But this year also marks the first time the owners - Vic and Gail Vanik - have won the 2012 Revolutionary 100 National award, given out by Today's Garden Center. The award got them a photo on the cover of the national magazine and a great article about their business.
However, this is not their first cover picture on that particular publication. They won the western region award in 2009 and the southwestern region in 2012 and 2013.
This time they were picked out of 100 regional winners around the country. "It wasn't given out for numbers - customers, dollars or amount of plants," said Gail Vanik. It was for their business philosophy that they've grown over the years.
Vic Vanik has been planting things since 1970. He happened on the love of growing things by accident when he was younger. He's kept up with it and they took over the greenhouse about 15 years ago. They now have over 30,000 plants in the nursery.
But it's only been in the last couple of years that Four Seasons has been in the business of growing produce. "It started out as a way to lower our cholesterol," said Gail, when they discovered Vic's was too high. They started with baby sunflower greens in 2010, just for their family. Then gradually they started planting other greens when customers saw it growing and wondered if they could buy it.
Their produce business has grown tremendously since then. They have planted lettuce, spinach, arugula, microgreens, Swiss chard, kale, along with six varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes. Last year they cut and packaged over 15 tons of greens.
Even though Four Seasons is organic-certified, Gail said local trumps organic. "Anytime anyone can get something grown locally, that's what they go for."
Their marketing, mostly done by Gail, involves social media, community involvement, word-of-mouth and some advertising. "We try to think 'what are you doing that nobody else is doing?'" said Gail.
And what they're doing is working. The Vaniks are willing to continually transform their business, and pay attention to what their customers, and the community, wants. They opened their winter farmer's market because many farmers in this area grow, harvest and sell their produce during the warm months, not a long season. So, using their often-unused retail space, they have invited vendors to come once a week and sell the food they've grown locally. They started with 13 vendors and it has grown to 25.
It not only helps the vendors, it brings traffic through Four Seasons, a fact that Vic and Gail is a win-win situation for everyone. "We've had so much fun with it!" Gail said.
The Vaniks, and Four Seasons, have always been involved in their community. They participate in the local schools through FFA and growers groups, both locally and nationally. They coined the phrase "them-centric" to describe their focus on everyone around them. The classes they offer all year round range from spring wreaths to herbals to back-to-basics, so there is something for everyone.
The Four Seasons business has continually evolved, thanks to their openness to ideas and change, constantly challenging themselves. The two are personable, down-to-earth and friendly, making Four Seasons a wonderful place to go.
You just might see something you want!
The Vaniks will begin a summer farmers market on May 14 through September. "It will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.," said Gail. "We want to give people a chance to shop on their lunch hour."