Buffalo gardener sells produce
As the days get longer and the sun gets warmer, one can find Chanda Rule out in her garden more often than not. A bookkeeper by trade, Rule has taken her hobby of gardening and turned it into a successful business.
Rule lives with her husband Travis and their children, Calvin, Lexi and Tess on her husband’s family ranch. She shares she started her garden before the house was even built.
“At first it just looked like a bunch of rocks out in the pasture and people were calling my father-in-law asking him about the headstones in the field,” Rule says with a laugh.
Growing up in Ohio, Rule mentions her family always had a garden, so it only made sense for her to continue the tradition. The garden started as a means to feed their family not only fresh produce, but also preserving and freezing a variety of the produce to eat through the winter.
“I’ve had a garden for about 20 years now, Travis and I put the hoop house in about 10 years ago. There was some funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help with the cost and the irrigation for the garden,” says Rule.
Eventually, she was growing enough produce to give the excess to friends, and as the garden continued to grow, she decided to try her luck with the local farmers’ market.
“When we were still doing the farmers’ markets we had everyone involved. A friend would come out and we would pick all day. It was really hard on the garden, not everything is ready on the same day, and it would take all week for the plants to try and catch back up,” Rule says.
After picking all day, there would still be hours of work ahead of them getting ready for the farmers’ market.
“We’d pack everything up, go set up and stand down there for two hours. If we didn’t end up selling out, we would spend another couple of hours unpacking and putting away whatever was leftover. It just made for some very long days and was just too much for the garden,” she explains.
Roadside produce stand
The solution to their conundrum was a roadside produce stand in their front yard. The building was formerly used by the local FFA chapter to sell fireworks as a fundraiser, but when it came up for sale, Rule’s father-in-law saw an opportunity for her.
“Tom thought I needed the little building long before I did, but it has worked out really well for us,” says Rule.
The produce stand is open every day in the summer. Rule goes out and picks whatever is ready in the garden every morning and opens the stand midmorning for customers to peruse.
“It’s an honor box system, which really surprises people. I tell people just to make change out of the coffee can because I’m not in there all day,” Rule explains.
Many locals stop on their way home to grab some produce for dinner, and Rule notes there has been an increase in out-of-state license plates the last couple of years.
A family affair
“The kids have always been a huge help,” says Rule. “When they were younger, they would always clean up at the state 4-H produce judging contest just because we always have been particular about what we pick to sell.”
“And because of all of the time spent at farmers’ markets, they have great people skills and can make change faster than I can,” she adds. “So, I hope they learned some life skills from it.”
Calvin will be a sophomore at Casper College this fall, where he is studying fire science and rangeland management, Lexi will be running track and cross country at Chadron State University this fall as a freshman, where she will study elementary education and Tess is a junior at Buffalo High School, which means her readily available source of labor is dwindling. Rule relies on their muscles to help with rototilling, planting and harvesting.
Calvin’s time in high school shop class resulted in multiple innovations for the garden, which have been instrumental in the success of the business. From portable supports helping plants grow vertically in the hoop house, to a collapsible picking basket attached to old skateboard wheels, his welding skills have proven to be extremely helpful.
“You have to get a little innovative,” Rule says. “The custom supports in the hoop house allow us to focus on growing plants vertically since horizontal space, especially in the hoop house, is a premium.”
“We use baling twine and clips to help hold the vines up, which helps prevent disease and keep the mice out,” she says. “I rotate my beds and the use of black plastic helps with weeds. We use drainage tiles for wind protection. It’s been trial and error.”
Rule grows all of the staples – tomatoes, squash, herbs, etc., but she also grows more exotic produce. In the past she’s tried okra, Chinese long beans, tomatillos, and this year she is giving jicama a try.
“Grow what you love. I will be 103 and have tomato plants some place,” says Rule with a big smile. “There’s not a tomato I don’t like.”
Golden Rule Produce has come a long way from its humble beginnings with a few rock markers in the pasture. You can find Rule and her Golden Rule Produce stand at 12 Green Trees Road, just outside of Buffalo.
“Digging in the dirt is good for the soul. I am so blessed with so many things,” Rule says.
Tressa Lawrence is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.