It’s spring indoors!
Green, and Red, and Yellow and Pink
After growing 12 acres of organic hemp during the first legal season in 2020, Bluestem Prairie Organic Hemp, LLC founder Bridget Chambers had a unique problem.
A bumper crop, much more than could be used immediately to make a variety of CBD oil-containing products, left her with no real need to plant hemp again in 2022.
She had a shed full of it, and an empty greenhouse.
Thus, the idea of growing flowers bloomed.
“We need to use that for other things,” Chambers said. “Flowers came to mind. Look at this empty greenhouse, we should grow plants.”
Chambers is an attorney with a practice in Webster City. She specializes in criminal law appeals.
“This is a hobby that turned into a business,” she said. “I always hoped it would, but I’m still full-time as an attorney.”
To help get the flowers, herbs and, before then, the hemp, off to a good green start, she enlisted the help of Kim Peterson, of Callender, as greenhouse manager. Peterson arrived with 22 years experience at Eddies Greenhouse in Fort Dodge.
“I’m also known as the plant whisperer,” Peterson said. “This has been my passion. Bridget was one of my customers; I always helped her. When they decided to grow hemp she called me.”
Chambers deeply appreciates Peterson’s part in the success of the operation.
“I probably wouldn’t have done it if you weren’t available,” Chambers told her among the many colorful flowers surrounding them in the greenhouse. “I’m happy she’ll train me.”
Some of the flowers available in the greenhouse were raised from seed, others from purchased seedlings. All of it gets the same tender loving care from Peterson.
“I’m the mom, these are all my children,” Peterson said.
Chambers readily confirms that.
“Yesterday she had a magnifying glass out looking for bugs,” she said.
While Peterson brought along all 10 of her green digits, Chambers still gets her fingers in the soil.
“I handle the weeds before and after work,” she said.
Peterson said the secret is knowing the plants’ natural cycles, when do they need fertilizer, how much to water and when.
But does she talk to them?
“Well of course,” Peterson said.
Do they answer her?
“Oh yes,” she said with a little wink and a gesture towards the thousands of plants. “They’re blooming, they’re happy.”
Another of the talents Peterson brought along with her is timing the growing cycle of the various flowers and herbs. She said most greenhouse operations try to have a peaking collection starting around Mother’s Day.
Neither has a favorite.
“All of them for me,” Peterson said. “I like watching the seeds germinate; to me it’s just fascinating watching them grow.”
Like so many other businesses just starting out, there were challenges. The supply chain issues caused by the COVID pandemic was among them.
“We started during COVID,” Chambers said. “What do you mean ‘you don’t have’ was a common part of it.”
Using organic methods and organic products was another difficulty that had to be overcome.
“Organic products can be hard to find,” she added.
The pair urge consumers to be a bit careful. The cold wet spring has been less than ideal for planting.
“It’s a late spring,” Chambers said. “We had a freeze this week, next week is supposed to be nice. Be careful.”
To help their customers, the option of buying a basket or potted flower now, then picking it up later, is available.
“They can stay here till Mother’s Day,” Peterson said.
There’s also plenty on hand for the garden; they have a selection of tomatoes, peppers and other garden vegetables as well as herbs. While not certified, they use organic practices.
“That means no growth regulators, no chemical sprays,” Chambers said.
Chambers expects that in the future, they will be growing more hemp as it’s needed. She’s careful to stress that hemp, while from the same plant family, isn’t the same as marijuana that’s illegal to cultivate in Iowa.
“It’s all from the same plant family,” Chambers said. “They are different varieties. Hemp contains about .03 percent THC. The teenagers know that; we haven’t had any problems.”
“People who are looking for marijuana know this isn’t it,” Peterson added.
The greenhouse is located at 2522 Tunnel Mill Road just south of Webster City. Its hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through June. For more information on the available CBD hemp products see bluestemhempfarm.com.