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Horse pasture becomes a growing business in northern Wyoming

June 26, 2021 GMT
Brian Berglund plants in his commercial greens garden, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, near Sheridan, Wyo. As Western Variety Farm's only employee, Berglund stays busy seeding, transplanting, picking and preparing his crops for market. (Matthew Gaston/Sheridan Press via AP)
Brian Berglund plants in his commercial greens garden, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, near Sheridan, Wyo. As Western Variety Farm's only employee, Berglund stays busy seeding, transplanting, picking and preparing his crops for market. (Matthew Gaston/Sheridan Press via AP)
Brian Berglund plants in his commercial greens garden, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, near Sheridan, Wyo. As Western Variety Farm's only employee, Berglund stays busy seeding, transplanting, picking and preparing his crops for market. (Matthew Gaston/Sheridan Press via AP)

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — If you’re looking for some fresh local vegetables for your next summer salad, you need look no further than your own backyard. Or, more accurately, Fred and Karen Schubert’s backyard.

In March, 6,000 square feet of the Schuberts’ horse pasture was transformed into a commercial greens garden home to lettuce blends, baby kale, carrots, tomatoes and other kinds of homegrown produce. In just a matter of months, Brian Berglund, and his business Western Variety Farm, has found a niche in the community — providing homegrown veggies to local farmers markets and businesses like Sackett’s Market, The Sheridan Press reports.

“The freshness of what you get when it’s just been picked and it’s over to the shelf the next day, you can just taste it,” Berglund said. “In that respect, there’s just no comparison. When you get a bag of salad that literally just came out of the field, it just tastes different and it keeps for longer too…It’s nice to be close to your food.”

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Berglund is a Connecticut native with a background in agriculture and farming, including work at a farm at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. While he originally moved out West to work at a ranch in Montana, Berglund was charmed by Sheridan and decided to move here in March. He also saw a potential business opportunity in the community and a chance to indulge his dream of owning and managing a small commercial greens garden.

“I thought I would work under somebody else for another year,” Berglund said. “But I felt kind of equipped and, with the virus driving people to really enjoy farmers’ markets and locally-raised produce, I thought it was a good time to start out.”

At first, Berglund didn’t have the land to make his dream a reality. Shortly after moving to Sheridan, he posted an advertisement looking for a small tract of land he could lease. He was contacted by the Schuberts, who own property off Cleveland Avenue.

“My husband just happened to see the ad and mentioned it to me, so we called Brian,” Karen said. “We were just really impressed with him. He was very knowledgeable, kind and considerate. We could tell right off he was going to be one of us. He was going to be part of the family.”

For his part, Berglund said he was blessed to meet the Schuberts, who frequently assist in the garden and have become some of his fastest friends. He also said their horse pasture proved an ideal location for his garden.

“This had been horse pasture so it was extremely fertile land, and it’s also by Big Goose and in the flood plains,” Berglund said. “There are different soils here than anywhere else in Wyoming, and that’s a good thing. So it’s been really rich and easy to grow, but I just kind of got lucky.”

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Even on this ideal land, there have been challenges, Berglund said. One of the biggest has been adapting his gardening skills after moving from the East Coast — learning about the challenges facing crops here, what will thrive in Wyoming and what won’t.

“I grew up in Connecticut so I knew how to grow things on the east coast,” Berglund said. “So the biggest challenge has been figuring out what can grow here and what has less insect pressure. What performs better in Wyoming that I’m not familiar with? So that’s been a little bit of a learning curve of figuring that stuff out… Beets and root crops perform really well here and don’t get a lot of (insect) pressure. But tomatoes are a tough one because flea beetles will attack tomatoes. Those are fairly easy to grow in Connecticut, but they’re more challenging here.”

The garden is Berglund’s full-time job. As Western Variety Farm’s only employee, he stays busy seeding, transplanting, picking and preparing his crops for market. He will soon become even busier as he expands the garden to include some late-season crops like winter squash. Next week, he will also start raising 50 chickens.

Berglund said he was pleased with the reception he had received so far, and was excited for the future.

“I’ve really had pretty good traction in terms of people responding,” Berglund said. “This has been a very successful test run, and I’m excited to keep it moving and getting bigger.”

The Schuberts are equally excited to see how Western Variety Farm grows and thrives in their own backyard, Karen said.

“Brian’s got a goal and a dream, and it’s been really fun for my husband and I to watch him fulfill his dream and use his skills to support himself and give back to the community,” Karen said.