by Anna Ferraro
For 30 years, Triple Creek Farms has been “home grown, and always fresh.” Boasting over eight greenhouses on rolling Virginia acres, this Cass County business is beautiful and blooming. Brenda Conn, co-owner of the business with her husband, Bob, are the ones overseeing a team of six other individuals who grow over 400 varieties of perennials, 550 varieties of annuals, 150 varieties of vegetables, 40 kinds of herbs, rose bushes, flowering vines and ornamental grasses, according to their website, www.triplecreekfarm.net. Conn shares, “our mission is simple- to provide the best quality, locally grown plants with great customer service.”
Growing up in Mason County, Conn says, “I always took flower gardening in 4H, and showed my flowers too.” She went to college to become a medical assistant, but that didn’t last too long. As a young mom, she didn’t want to be making the commute to Springfield each day to work in an office or a hospital. She wanted to be home with her two beautiful kids. … and her flowers.
She started her first ones up in her dining room window. They started growing, and they haven’t stopped yet. In 1988, she built her first greenhouse on her Virginia property. She shares, “At the time, I thought, ‘maybe someday I’ll sell a few tomato plants. …’” Today, on her farm just five miles north of Virginia on Highway 78, her property sprawls with eight greenhouses and acres of pumpkins, gourds, corn, and more. She continued, “People started getting excited about what I was doing. In my first year, I sold one greenhouse worth of flower and vegetable plants. So then, every couple years, we’d build another greenhouse. … One thing led to another and we got more and more customers.”
In 2009, her business grew beyond Virginia and into Petersburg, where Triple Creek Farm opened a “satellite location” – a greenhouse and a store (located on 116 S. Fifth Street – behind Potter Drugs and City Hall).
Conn boasted, “We grow 95% of all the plants that we sell. Every hanging basket here, I’ve potted. We only ship in a small amount of trees and shrubs. Everything else, we grow from seeds and cuttings.”
As one may imagine, spring is their busiest time of year. Along with her husband and their seasonal employees, Conn puts in a seven-day week of 10-14-hour workdays. But she doesn’t complain, saying, that she’s doing what she loves, and who doesn’t love it when their childhood hobby turns into their full-time adult job?
On their Virginia acreage, things are looking beautiful right now. Conn shares, “Start in the greenhouses around February 10th, potting some plants up, and especially, getting our geraniums going. When we get one greenhouse filled up, we start filling the next one up. Right now, we’re sitting on totally full greenhouses waiting for the weather to break.”
Yes, you’ve probably seen them at the Lincoln Square Farmer’s Market through the summer (they come on Saturday’s), but what you may not know is that in addition to their greenhouses, Triple Creek Farm offers acres of pumpkins, gourds, and corn – an aspect of their business that keeps them busy after the summer (and after they’ve sold about 2,000 mums alongside the fall items. After the fall, they’re still busy, selling off Christmas trees and wreaths in their Petersburg greenhouse.
What contributed to their success for over 30 years of business? Conn shares, “I think it’s just a lot of hard work and determination. We have great loyal customers that come out and support us each year. … We try to roll with what people want and stay on top of what they want to see each year. We try to have new and unusual things that maybe they can’t get in town or at a bigger garden center.”
She added (in analogical gardening terms), “It’s not always a bed of roses. You have good years, and years that aren’t so good. The inputs of our business are higher each year, and you have to find a way to get more customers.”
They’ve branched out into offering a full range of products for miniature or “fairy gardens” – from the containers, rock, miniature plants, toys, embellishments, and more, they’ve got you covered. Conn shares, “We just try to not do everything the same. Things have changed so much in 30 years of business. … Now, people have less time, and they’re more into container gardening. We switch our focus based on what people need and want to see.”
For Conn and her family, “The most exciting thing is when new customers come, and then they return because they love our plants. That’s what we like to hear – that people are successful with our plants.” She chuckled with that, though, saying, “We have way too many first-time visitors, still. … We’re the best-kept secret of Cass County. Often, people drive by, and they can see the greenhouses from the highway, and they’re blown away by what they see when they come in and look around.”
Right now, they’re trying to draw in the younger crowd, using Facebook and fun events on the grounds. Speaking of which, save the date! In honor of their 30th year of business, Triple Creek Farm is hosting an open house at their Virginia location on April 28th (10931 Rt. 78, 5 miles north of Virginia).
Featuring prize drawings, light refreshments, and a workshop on “Success in Succulents” given by one of their favorite seeds reps, this day is for any and all who have any interest in vegetables, flowers, or gardens. For more details, check out their website at www.triplecreekfarm.net, or contact them by phone at: (217) 452-3381.