Carmen Walisser’s goal is offering unique and quality plants and vegetables to their Okanagan customers from her business, Better Earth Gardens and Tropicals, located in lower mission Kelowna.
Harnessing ten years of greenhouse experience in Manning, AB, Carmen and Alan, her husband, moved to Kelowna for lifestyle. They both camped in the area as kids and then brought their own young family to the region for holidays.
Settling permanently here after selling in Alberta, they decided they wanted to contribute to the local economy. There seemed no better way then by opening a garden centre in a part of Canada where outdoor life is the norm, and the longer growing season enables almost limitless possibilities for those with a green thumb, as well as for those who prefer their garden look great with someone else’s creative design and planning talents.
Open from spring through Christmas, the products at their location on KLO are constantly changing and evolving – different plant types, vegetables, flower colours or arrangements.
“Today a new trend is planting containers with plants that grow all year and then changing the plants that compliment them in the pot seasonally. We can help with that,” says Carmen who loves nothing more than getting her hands in the earth and watching plants thrive.
In addition to plants, they’ve branched providing top soils, mulch, landscape rock, trees, shrubs, some giftware and garden décor. They’re also growing alfalfa, making over 500 square bales and working to start their own tree and fruit seedlings on the property.
With a team of eight, Better Earth provides great customer service and employment for themselves, their daughter, Ariel.
“One of our employees is a customer who shopped frequently and asked if she could work here, so I didn’t hesitate,” says Carmen who hasn’t had trouble finding great employees in their first two seasons. They range from those with gardening experience to university students.
The Walissers also helped rejuvenate a section of KLO road by leasing land that had been used as a business to sell quarry rock and needed some care and attention. Liking the great central and visible location, they financed and built about 9,000 square feet of greenhouse space. It accommodates their business needs with a bit of room left over. That space is leased out as winter storage space for large tropical plants used seasonally around the pool decks and yards of Kelowna residents.
Recognizing the value of connections and to further help establish their business and become more involved in the community, Better Earth donates to local fundraisers, a golf tournament and offers unique plant and sip events.
“We’ve teamed up with local wineries to have people come to the greenhouse and enjoy a taste of the Okanagan while creating a planter or wreath to match the season,” Carmen explains. She says she found receptive ears when she approached some wineries with the idea. It’s a great example of how partnership can help to drive more than one sector forward.
With ever changing stock, Carmen encourages people to drop in to see what’s new as they continue to grow their new business venture.
Written by: Myrna Stark Leader, COEDC Agriculture Specialist