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Life & Work with Patti Ragsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Patti Ragsdale.

Hi Patti, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
As with most folks, my love of nature and plants started in my childhood. It led me to study Wildlife Management in college where I was exposed to Botany, Plant Taxonomy, Ecology, and the concepts of conservation. Of course, I ended up spending most of my career in a completely unrelated field: art and graphic design.

But the beautiful plants I learned about that grow all around us and the understanding of the support they provide for all other living things became a constant source of wonder. That got me started in this obsession with including native plants in my own gardens. So as soon as I had an opportunity to “retire” from my first career in 2015, I decided to start a business that focused on sharing what I’ve learned about native plants and helping others include them in gardens. It was a dream come true.

And this year, 2022, my husband and I along with some other visionary folks are embarking on a new endeavor called Botanical Belonging. It’s a non-profit that aims to familiarize people in our community with the native plants of our region. We will encourage and enable hands-on interaction with the plants through both propagation and cultivation, both in other gardens and in our own gardens here at Happy Apple’s Farm.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Well, I don’t suppose starting up a business is ever without struggles. Luckily we were planning to develop a small business at our new place in the country before we even moved out here. We had accumulated the funds and adjusted our lifestyle to support the loss of income when I left my “real job.”

I basically worked and thought about how to start a business 24/7 once we got here. That’s not a huge problem because I love what I do. I had been doing it in my time off anyway. There was a lot to learn about business, though. Since I had never sold anything before it helped to spend a couple of seasons selling at local farmers’ markets. Having a small herd of alpacas and talking with folks about caring for them and working with their fiber was a great way to draw folks to my booth and get them talking about plants.

I didn’t make any profit those first couple of years, but it taught me a lot about marketing and managing time and money. When we finally realized we were making a profit, it was time to grow a little more infrastructure and invite people here to shop plants. Figuring out how to build retail space on our very rural property without spending more than we had was a lot of work because we did it ourselves.

This wouldn’t be an ideal life for everyone, but it worked for us. We wanted to do it all without taking out business loans. It’s a slow way to build a business, yet it kept things simple and allowed us to grow into the education-focused Botanical Belonging easily. That will be announced soon on our Happy Apple’s Farm website.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
We grow native plants for home and demonstration gardens.

We specialize in providing access to a wide variety of species so people can expand their knowledge about the native plants of our region. Our willingness to spend time with customers and understand where they are in their native plant journey sets us apart.

Every gardener and garden is unique and so is every native plant. We are proud to help folks enjoy the learning process and develop a long and loving relationship with the land they tend, the plants that grow there, and the wildlife they support.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that everyone seeking to plant native plants wants to help the world in some way. Whether they know why milkweed is important or just know it’s one of the plants in the pollinator garden plan they downloaded from a website, native plant people are trying to do something good.

Contact Info:

  • Email: happyapplenativefarm@gmail.com
  • Website: www.happyapplesfarm.com
  • Instagram: @gardenrambler
  • Facebook: Happy Apple’s Farm

Image Credits
Patti Ragsdale

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