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updated: 7/18/2011 9:20 AM

Teen farmer heads to market

Teen vegetable farmer heads to market

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  • Kirsten Halvorsen tends to peppers in the greenhouse at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.

       Kirsten Halvorsen tends to peppers in the greenhouse at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kirsten Halvorsen tending to basil in the greenhouse at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.

       Kirsten Halvorsen tending to basil in the greenhouse at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kirsten Halvorsen offers up one of her cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.

       Kirsten Halvorsen offers up one of her cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kirsten Halvorsen plants broccoli in her garden space at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.

       Kirsten Halvorsen plants broccoli in her garden space at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Kirsten Halvorsen tends to her tomatoes in her garden space at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.

       Kirsten Halvorsen tends to her tomatoes in her garden space at Natural Environments nursery in Hawthorn Woods.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Abby Scalf
ascalf@dailyherald.com

Call Kirsten Halverson a young entrepreneur with green thumbs.

The 17-year-old has used her experience maintaining her family's Kildeer home garden and her desire to begin her own business and started Kirsten's Garden.

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"Since I like vegetables and I like being outside, I thought that would totally work," she said.

With help from her father, Mike, she researched nurseries to acquire land to plant. A 10-minute bicycle ride from home, she found Rob Boyce, owner of Natural Environments, who was receptive to working with her.

She maintains a 50-by-100-foot space at Natural Environments in Lake Zurich. There, she has planted lettuce, broccoli, beets, radishes, carrots, onions, turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and within the greenhouse has eggplant and herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme and oregano.

"I have a good variety, standard stuff that people would like to buy. I have not done anything too crazy yet because I don't want it to not sell," she said.

Halverson said she is learning every day, and is thankful for mentors like Boyce who teach her how to avoid pesticides and tricks of the trade to protect her garden.

"This is the best situation any young farmer could be in, I would think. I have opportunity to use the greenhouse. I have this land. I have their knowledge. It is awesome," she said.

Boyce said everyone who works with him learns about the business.

"I can't explain everything. Some things I've just got to let her try," Boyce said. "She has the energy. She was willing to put in the time that was required."

Starting a vegetable garden has been a larger endeavor than she thought it would be. But the job has become manageable thanks to support from her dad and friends.

"My friends think it is cool. They like being outside and helping me," she said. "It is not the typical 'let's go to the movies.' It's 'let's go plant some carrots.'"

The soon-to-be Stevenson High School senior said she has confidence, but adds there are doubts too.

"I think what if nothing grows; what if no one buys; what if the soil is bad. Then I'll see a carrot coming up. I can see the fruits of my labor working. That keeps me going," she said.

Halverson began selling at the Palatine farmers market last May. Instead of a competition, she has learned vendors help one another.

"I am definitely the youngest person there and the only girl gardener, but people are very eager to help and support me because they want to help people get into (this business)," she said.

She hopes to find the same friendly environment when she brings Kirsten's Garden to the Lake Zurich market, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. every Friday at Lions Park.

"I think coming to Lake Zurich market will be better because I will see Boyce and those I work with and see familiar faces including teachers and friends," she said.

Halverson expects her business will expand, adding there is room for improvement.

"This is my first year so we are waiting to see how everything goes and then next year we'll expand more. Right now, for vegetable farmers this is really small," she said.

She first thought the garden may be a summer hobby. But as she works and sees the seeds grow, Kirsten's Garden may grow into a lifelong pursuit.

"It's definitely in the cards," she said. "It is not a yes or a definite no, but it's now a possibility, which it never was."

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