By Anna Jauhola
LAKE BRONSON, Minn. — Paul and Eden Johnson didn’t imagine opening their greenhouse in the middle of a national pandemic. But, with support from all over the county, and beyond, the couple forged ahead and officially started the rural Lake Bronson business May 1.
The Garden of Eden has not officially opened its doors to the public. Instead, they are offering free delivery throughout Kittson County and scheduling pick-up times for those outside the county.
“At this point, people can either email, call or message us through Facebook,” Eden said. “Or they can ask for an order form to fill out and send back to us.”
Before getting married in August 2018, the Johnsons discussed having their own greenhouse business at their rural residence east of Lake Bronson. The opportunity presented itself shortly before they were married when Jim and Sally Erickson, who owned Jim’s Greenhouse in the town of Lake Bronson, asked if they’d like to purchase the largest structure.
“The plan was Jim and Sally wanted to have it so it was a package deal. They gave us a price but wanted it off their lot so they could clean up and get the yard back to normal,” Paul said.
The couple bought the greenhouse in 2018 but didn’t have time to get it up and running. Paul and his dad, Al Johnson, began building in June 2019.
“The only existing part of this structure on the farm was the old garage,” Paul said, noting the garage you first see upon entering the property. “So my dad and I started building, put up the storefront portion between the garage and greenhouse. Now this summer we’ll put in a bathroom.”
The storefront entrance between the garage and greenhouse is not complete, but it will hold retail items such as seeds, soil and pots.
While the greenhouse gains momentum, Paul continues his full-time job with Great Lakes Gas. Eden has put teaching violin lessons on hold until life returns more to normal. Throughout, the Johnsons and their daughter Vivian, who is 6 months old, have been working in the greenhouse.
Until then and until the COVID-19 pandemic slows and allows for more normal business, they will operate remotely.
The greenhouse is flush with bright red, yellow, pink and white begonias, as well as numerous petunias, snapdragons, coleus plants and starter tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and other vegetables.
Although the Johnsons took this leap with little background in raising plants, they are excited to provide a greenhouse to the area again. The Ericksons retired over the last couple of years and have helped the Johnsons get the new business on its feet. Paul said he helped his mom and dad raise a small garden every year.
“We grew all our own potatoes, tomatoes and stuff, and can for the year,” he said. “But I’ve only ever really gardened. This is my first experience in a greenhouse myself.”
Eden’s family grew a garden once or twice in her childhood, but her experience comes from college at the University of North Dakota. She worked in the biology department in the greenhouse where she watered and transplanted plants.
“I was usually the one who followed the list of things to do,” she said.
As they prepared to open and have started taking orders, Paul said Sally has helped a lot, especially with planting dates.
Despite the Garden of Eden’s soft opening, the Johnsons have had a good stream of orders.
“We were trying to figure out our plan if we could open our doors, and then we had to pick a direction because it’s just the two of us,” Paul said. “Then we started getting orders and realized we’re going to have to have a lot better inventory.”
Last week, the Johnsons counted their plants and made sure they had what they needed to fulfill orders.
“It’s one of those things you’re looking at what’s next and you realize inventory’s going to be a real thing for us instead of ‘if it’s gone, it’s gone,’” Paul said with a laugh.
Even as they focus on making it through their first season, Paul and Eden have dreams for the future of their greenhouse. Right now, the main structure holds a good amount of plants. Eden hopes one day to have an additional greenhouse. Paul really likes trees and hopes to offer those to his customers one day as well.
The couple will also offer pumpkins in the fall.
“We’re thinking we’ll have a pumpkin patch and kids can pick a free pumpkin,” Eden said. “It’s something fun for people to go out and do. A community thing.”
They also hope they can officially introduce the public to their greenhouse this fall with an open house.
By Anna Jauhola