Green Business: Frank’s Plants and Produce: Seeking sustainability one seedling at a time

By LeRae Haynes –

It’s been a busy, verdant season at Frank’s Plants and Produce in Horsefly, kicked off by Seedy Saturday, the Mother’s Day build-your-own basket event, and the Williams Lake Farmer’s Market. The home-based greenhouse, growing a wide range of veggies, flowers, shrubs, fruit vines, and herbs, is owned and run by Frank Wijma and his wife Carla Bullinger who work to balance family and running a business, and despite facing hurdles and obstacles are finding joy in every day life.

Carla Bullinger, Cali the dog, and Frank Wijma in the family greenhouse garden, where vegetables, fruits, vines, and flowers are grown to feed and beautify homes and communities in the Cariboo. Photo: LeRae Haynes

The family’s lifestyle reflects the desire to dial things back and still function, says Wijma.

“You need to make a living, but a lot of it is about lowering your expectations of what you need to hang on to,” he said.

Born and raised in the Williams Lake area, Wijma spent 25 years away pursuing education and career in places like Yellowknife and Nebraska and working commercial greenhouses in Langley and Abbotsford.

“The Cariboo lifestyle brought me back,” he said. “Horsefly is a great community—a great mix of new comers and old timers.”

He said one of the things he loves about gardening in the Cariboo is that the climate helps you dial things back. “On the coast gardening was year-round,” he said. “Here it’s a few months and then you get to do something else the rest of the year. I love the variety.”

At Frank’s Plants and Produce, most of the foliage is grown from seed, and some is imported as beautiful seedlings. “Just in veggies last year, we planted 14,000 seeds,” he said.

Frank’s Plants and Produce, where vegetables, fruits, vines, and flowers are grown to feed and beautify homes and communities in the Cariboo. Photo: LeRae Haynes

He added that some of the earliest visitors to the greenhouse are the early pollinators, explaining that these include bees, hummingbirds, and at least 30 different kinds of flies. Some of these winged guests, including certain wasps and hornets, prove very useful, wreaking havoc on the aphid population in the greenhouse.

There are certainly hurdles to running a home-based greenhouse business. “Long hours for a sustained couple of months is part of it,” he said. “It’s also constant risks from things like heating the greenhouses, weather, and huge competition from automated massive greenhouses with distribution through places like Canadian Tire and Walmart,” he said. They’re all about prices, and if you’re not competitive, even people who may want to buy responsibly-grown plants without pesticides will buy elsewhere.”

“We live in a wonderful time where we have so many cool things around to make our lives easier. You can live sustainably, or you can enjoy the variety of things available. It’s hard to do both. I think that in its truest sense, sustainability means ‘poverty.’ Living in a shack the size of a shoebox is sustainable, but no one wants to do that,” he added.

“One of my favourite aspects of this business is when what I grow is used very locally – not trucked out – just feeding my local community. Now that’s sustainable.”

Wijma said he loves watching Horseflinians grow gardens. “I don’t care if they bought plants from me or not. There is local, good food grown right here,” he said.

“We have what we need: a simple home and simple belongings. It’s a meaningful life.”

For more information about Frank’s Plants and Produce phone (250) 620-0032 or visit him at the Williams Lake Farmer’s Market.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer and instigator of lots of music with people of all ages in the community. She fearlessly owns 10 ukuleles, clinging to the belief that you’re not a hoarder if you play them all.

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