Emmett moves on from the town to start seed company

By David Peck

Town of Lovell Parks Director Gary Emmett is returning to the private sector after managing town parks for more than nine years.

Emmett worked his last day for the town on December 15 and is in the process of forming a seed company with wife Brenda and son Chandler. Emmett has operated Successful Gardens as a gardening advice YouTube channel and is using the same name for the seed company. He will also work with brother Alvin to operate Greenhouse Gardens, Lovell’s local greenhouse.

He had been with the Town of Lovell since July of 2012 after managing garden centers in Idaho for 11½ years, then working for a national fertilizer and chemical company. The 1987 graduate of Lovell High School is a professional horticulturalist with a degree in greenhouse management and construction from Ricks College. 

“It was time to change,” Emmett said simply about his decision. “Opportunities came up. If anything it was just time to change, and the environment was right to make that change.”

Emmett said he is still in the process of “dotting all the i’s and crossing the t’s” to form his company selling seeds. He said he will start regionally and hopes to grow into national sales.

While there are many seed companies across the country, Emmett plans to work with wholesalers to purchase and sell seeds that work best in a particular area.

“We’re working on a design for our packages, so I’ll be packaging seed and offering those in retail markets,” he said. “I’m looking at regional right now, with us being able to go national next year.

“The idea is, especially with regional (sales), is offering varieties of seeds that do well in a colder climate, in a Wyoming environment. There are (also) some consulting opportunities available. We’re on the threshold of a lot of possibilities. That’s the interesting thing about gardening.”

Emmett noted that his YouTube channel has followers and an audience from as far away as India and Australia, so that aspect of his company is international in scope.

“It’s not just about growing or gardening in Wyoming,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn and to offer and to make happen, which is fun. Interacting with people from around the globe is incredible.”

Emmett said he and his family will initially operate the seed company out of their home but as the operation grows may move operations to the greenhouse as that company grows.

“The nice thing about gardening is that it can always grow, a play on words there,” he said.

Wife Brenda is an active and strong business partner, Emmett said.

“As we were looking at possibilities and going through things she got me grounded again,” he said. “She took me back to my roots: Where did we start? What did we start with?

“As we started talking about this, it evolved. I have contacts. In fact, one of my college professors from years ago used to own a seed business. It’s been fun to interact with him and ask questions. His best word of advice was, ‘Good luck.’”

Local approach

While there are hundreds of seed companies for a consumer to choose from, including companies on the internet, not all seeds will grow in all climates, so it’s important to purchase seeds from a company that knows a particular geographic area, Emmett said. And that’s where Successful Gardens comes in the local and regional level, working with niche markets.

“I would like to be able to reach out to greenhouses and the local gardens in the Big Horn Basin,” Emmett said, noting that he has two commitments in Lovell already, including Greenhouse Gardens, of course.

Emmett is currently in the process of obtaining his Wyoming seed license through the Department of Agriculture, which he called a formality. As he grows nationally, he will have to have an individual license from each state in which his company operates.

“You have to look at your growth market and areas you want to access, so there is a lot to pursue on that. That’s why we’re staying within Wyoming first,” he said.

While he already has a Successful Gardens website, he is developing his “storefront” to sell online and through retail stores – “if we get everything fully operational this spring” – noting that he is about two months behind where he should be for successful sales, adding, “but we can make that work.”

One of his national wholesale vendors is Ball Seed, and another is Treasure Valley Seed of Idaho, which specializes in peas, beans and corn.

“There are hundreds of different varieties of corn, but (we’re) looking at the ones that grow here, with our shorter season, so we watch for that,” Emmett said. “There are a lot of possibilities out there to offer varieties that are in the catalogues but we can get locally…offering varieties and streamlining that selection process (for Wyoming).”

Working with the greenhouse, Emmett noted that brother Alvin has already worked to bring in new varieties of flowers and vegetables to see if they can be grown locally, something “fun and different” while also offering “tried and true” varieties.

“That’s the fun thing about gardening is trying some of those newer things and newer varieties or something different,” he said. “Then you say, ‘Yup, that worked. Let’s try it again’ or ‘Nope, that didn’t work.’”

Emmett said one of his goals is to lessen the workload on his older brother at the greenhouse. This will be Alvin’s 12th summer operating the greenhouse, he said.

Parks director

Looking back on his more than nine years as Lovell Parks Director, Emmett said he truly enjoyed working with the public, developing and helping to improve parks and helping to re-establish the rose gardens, which involved seeing that the parks crew have become dedicated to the roses and have pride in the gardens – like Phyrn Opp and the flower ladies have had in making Main Street look good.

He also said he enjoyed working with the chamber of commerce to develop the downtown flower basket program, and working as a member of the Lovell Tree Board.

“That (the tree board) was something really fun, and I enjoyed working with Christy Fleming at the Park Service for Arbor Day and the fifth graders in the school and getting the fifth graders excited about planting trees,” he said. “That was fun. It was a lot of work, but having some of those kids years later talk about ‘I remember planting a tree’ (is fun). They would call it their tree even though their class planted the tree. A lot of those kids could remember and tell me that they planted a tree in the park and it’s over in the baseball field, or it’s over in Armory Park, and kids helped plant the trees out at the community center last year.

“Those are going to be trees and things that those kids remember and that’s what’s exciting about gardening in itself, that you can teach a generation those skills to help them understand the importance of trees, whether it’s the beauty aspect or the environmental aspect. I enjoyed that aspect of teaching.”