Tucked behind a 106-year-old farmhouse on bustling Argonne Road, a 1-acre urban farm is taking root and getting ready to bloom.
Fruit Hill Farm is the grown-up dream of childhood friends Shawna Beese and Kristi Kimmet.
“We met at Argonne Junior High,” Beese said.
Her journey took her through nursing school and earning an MBA, while Kimmet’s path lay in the soil. Kimmet enjoyed a long career as a field biologist and has 20 years of ethnobotany experience.
Though Kimmet had always gardened, Beese just began gardening five years ago, but she quickly exhausted her one-third-acre yard.
“We always said someday we’re going to retire and have a farm together,” said Beese.
Someday arrived in June when she spotted the farmhouse for sale. Its empty acre was the perfect size for their start-up operation.
“Our goal is to develop our own source nursery through plant propagation,” Beese said. “We’ll have our own line of regionally acclimated perennials.”
Their ambitions plans include a demonstration garden, a tea garden, an herb garden and a large pumpkin patch featuring a variety of winter squash.
A hoop house will shelter tender plants from the weather, and a heated greenhouse is in the works to prolong the growing season.
Raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, mulberries, red and black currants, gooseberries and goji berries sit in flats, ready for purchase.
“Goji berries are the kale of the berry world,” said Kimmet, smiling.
Because this is their first growing season, they will have to bring in trees and plants to sell, but that’s not the long-term goal.
“Our mission isn’t just to buy to sell,” Beese said.
In fact, the Fruit Hill Farm tagline is “live today with tomorrow in mind.”
“We want to teach people how to get the most food production out of tiny yards,” Beese said. “We’ll feature special edible perennials that you plant once and then can eat for the rest of your life.”
For example, they recently planted their first apple trees. To make the most use of their space, they used the espalier method. It’s a method of training and pruning a tree or shrub, forcing it to grow flat against a wall or a free-standing trellis
“We’ll have three varieties of apples as well as cherries and pears,” Kimmet said.
Their “Front Porch Store” sits next to the farmhouse. Shoppers can purchase various teas, books or locally produced cleaning products made from essential oils.
The building won’t sit empty during the winter months. Fruit Hill Farm already has hosted several workshops and events, and the plan is to continue that all through the year.
Chickens, rabbits and a compost station are also in the works.
In addition to selling plants and trees, Fruit Hill Farm also offers garden installation and maintenance.
Beese and Kimmet are passionate about education.
“Our whole point is to make your yard beautiful, but also productive,” Beese said. “At the end of the day, we want to empower people to get the most resilience and production out of their own yards.”
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