Environment
10:00 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Mequon Team Aims to Make Gardening Accessible to All

Joey and Holly Baird stand ready to transplant tray upon tray of sprouting vegetables outside as soon as spring takes hold.
Credit S Bence

Holly & Joey Baird launched The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener with with a gardening-related Facebook page and the video camera Holly Baird won at work.

"We had already started our Facebook page - The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener - and people were asking us questions where we could find articles on line to help them, but we figured we could actually show them now," Holly says.

The Bairds produced their inaugural video with autumnal in theme - what to do with pumpkings in November 2011.

What Joey Biard lacked in “documentary” acumen, he  made up for in enthusiasm and farming experience. He grew up and – until he and Holly teamed up – WORKED on the Baird family farm in southern Illinois.

"About 1,000 tillable acres.  Cattle, hogs and grain was the operation there.  And we always had a garden that was just part of life.  That was a way to save money - growing your own food; and that what we did," Joey says.

Holly grew up in West Allis, Wisconsin growing vegetables at a much smaller scale.

"4 by 4 vegetable patch.  And what's funny is that we would just put the seeds in the ground and it wasn't until I met Joey that I learned that you could start the seeds a head of time.  Memorial Day we just planted the seeds and then waited," Holly says.

Joey says they were on equal footing when it came to ventures like a website, social media, and instructional videos.

"We have no background in videography, editing nothing; so we went into this completely blind," Joey says.

The seasons determine the Baird's video content.  Joey says they produce special segments when "hot" topics arise they think their followers will be hungry for.

Such as ‘what does it take to grow a thriving dwarf lime tree. The Bairds did just that next to their large kitchen window - along with baskets cascading with herbs.

Happy dwarf lime tree (left) and herbs thrive in Baird's kitchen window.

They also freely share failures and frustrations. Joey points to the remains of a winter experiment – hydroponics.

"Hydroponics is growing plants in water, without soil.  It really limits possibility of diseases, but you have to have everything precise, because the water is the soil.  So hydroponics really gave us fits this winter; it's one of the biggest challenges we had this year," Joey says.

Holly has mastered the art of canning – and has won awards for it. Dozens of jars of varied sizes and colors line their pantry shelves.

Tthey take their mission in educating viewers seriously – especially in the art of canning – where Joey says – there is no room for error.

"it’s a science and if you don't correctly botulism is one of the pathogens that you can get from improper canning and you don't come back from botulism, you die.  You have to follow the directions to the "t" it's not something you can half do and think we’ll be okay," Joey says.

That “from the heart” earnestness remains, as their videography skills become more polished. The Bairds have also attracted several sponsors; and they’ve just released their first digital magazine.

Still, their lives are not all “show biz” - when the outdoor growing season finally does begin, the Bairds will be digging into multiple vegetable patches; a total of 2300 square feet, scattered across three counties.

The 31-year-olds would like nothing more than to have their “growing” venture consume their professional lives, but don’t see giving up their day jobs anytime soon.

"Right now the reward is the people that comment or email us and says thank you, or you've shown us something we didn't know, or we did try it and it was very successful; and without you doing it we never would have known," Joey says.

The Bairds seem to be casting a wide net. More than 3,000 people are regular followers – including people from far flung Australia and South Africa, to Turkey.

The Baird's pantry bulges with canned fruits and vegetables.