Bernadette Emery applies her knowledge to launch new business
Bernadette Emery, known as Bernie to family and friends, took what she learned earning an A.A.S. degree in the Landscape Horticulture program at Dakota County Technical College and started her own greenhouse business. A native of Cannon Falls, Minn., and a 1978 graduate of Cannon Falls High School, Bernie, 54, resides in Stanton, Minn., with Brian, her husband of 20 years. In fall 2013, the couple began constructing a 30′ by 60′ foot greenhouse on their property. The venture required a number of skills, including budgeting, commercial greenhouse construction, project management and site supervision.
With help from two sons, Brandon and Brian, Bernie’s dad, Ken Meyers, and numerous other family members, they completed the project, battling blustery winds and unseasonably cold weather, and started their first crop of bedding plants during what has been called the worst Minnesota winter in 30 years.
“Our business is called J & Bs’ Greenhouse,” Bernie said, noting that the J stands for Julie, Brian’s late aunt, whose legacy financed the project. The pluralized B represents their own first names. “Our goal is to grow and sell enough flowers and vegetables to sustain the business. Our neighbors have been very supportive and have stopped by often to check on our progress.”
“The greenhouse really got tested this winter,” added Brian, who was born and raised in the Stanton area. He farms with his brother on a nearby acreage, growing alfalfa and custom-raising heifers. “We had a twenty-below day in early March. The temperature in the greenhouse held just fine.” As it turned out, both January and February 2014 had average temps of −3 °F. The typical February in Stanton averages out at 10 above zero. The March low was 38 degrees below average.
Greenhouse construction and early growing phases *
* Photos courtesy of Bernie Emery
Bernie worked from home for many years as a medical transcriptionist, having earned a degree in the field from Inver Hills Community College. She chose Landscape Horticulture at DCTC because she loves gardening and was ready for a career in the green industry.
“I was going for the knowledge and the degree,” Bernie said. “The program is very hands-on and I loved the greenhouse part.”
Bernie especially enjoyed working during the program’s bedding plant sale, which takes place every spring and features product grown in the college’s state-of-the-art greenhouse. She got the chance to participate in key aspects of what she doing in her own greenhouse business, potting up material, setting up displays and consulting with customers. “That experience was huge,” she said.
Catherine Grant is an instructor in the Landscape Horticulture program. Catherine teaches courses related to greenhouse operation and plant production. She is the driving force behind the highly successful annual plant sale, which raises money for the college’s Horticulture Club. She regards Bernie Emery as a dream student.
“Bernie was a standout from the start,” Catherine said. “She is a formidable multitasker, a woman who never sleeps. She clearly wanted to learn about greenhouse production and did everything she could to use her education at DCTC to further her goal of opening her own greenhouse on her farm in Stanton.”
Catherine reported that Bernie attended two OFA Short Course greenhouse industry conferences in Columbus, Ohio, with funding from the student Hort Club. “While there, Bernie networked with vendors and attended relevant educational seminars about greenhouse pests, sanitation, media and more,” she said. “Between her coursework at DCTC, her educational trips to industry trade shows and her internships, Bernie managed to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to design, purchase, install and run her own greenhouse. She is a gem.”
J & Bs’ Greenhouse
Bernie’s four Landscape Horticulture internships were at Knecht’s Nurseries & Landscaping in Northfield, Minn. Those internships led to a full-time job in a management role at Knecht’s, which operates the area’s largest garden center.
“Between my job at Knecht’s and starting our own greenhouse, I’m keeping busy,” Bernie said with a smile. She pointed out that J & Bs’ Greenhouse sells retail and wholesale spring plant material, both annuals and vegetables. Their business also rents hanging baskets for weddings and other occasions.
Along with Brandon, 31, and Brian, 27, the Emerys have three other children, Ben, 33, Andrew, 18, and Mary, 16. The family has one dog, a springer spaniel named Josie. In her “free” time, Bernie teaches piano and sews wedding and prom dresses. She plays piano at three churches in her vicinity as well.