April is here, and conscientious gardeners will already be plotting, literally and figuratively. For starter plants, 19-year-old Max Edgar has even the pickiest gardeners covered.
When Edgar began working at Cal’s Market and Gardening Center as a seasonal employee, he probably didn’t think he was beginning his career. His duties included general tasks like sweeping and taking garbage out, but his favorite part was watering the plants.
“I just kind of fell in love with it,” Edgar said.
Edgar, a recent graduate of the Tokata Learning Center, said his time at the school influenced his love of gardening. During his senior year, Edgar helped build an aquaponics garden to honor his former teacher Chase Tuseth, who had a vision for the project but died in 2016 before he could construct it.
Another Tokata teacher, Jon Stock, helped students coordinate the project in Tuseth’s memory.
“Max was huge helping to create that and get it off the ground,” said school secretary Arine Condon. Edgar said Condon influenced his growing interest in caring for plants.
“We quickly discovered we both had a huge love for gardening. Together we decided to make a garden around my desk,” Condon said. “With the help of teachers he was able to work sitting right by my desk in his garden.”
Not only did the front desk garden help Edgar with his academics, but other students started to note the front desk’s transformation, according to Condon.
“Kids would bring in plants from home that were dying and Max would take care of them," she said.
When Condon worked nine months out of the year for the school district, she was a seasonal employee at Cal’s, and she encouraged Edgar to apply after noticing his affinity for horticulture.
“He took what he learned there, his passion, and he ran with it,” Condon said.
Perhaps due to his increased focus from the garden, Edgar graduated last March, a quarter early. With that extra time in the spring, he started Edgar’s Greenhouse and Garden Service, growing and selling plants locally. His first sale was outside his home like a garage sale.
“I did a little advertising on Facebook,” Edgar said. All of his customers were residential, and he remembers his first customer came from Hopkins. “He thought I had good deals,” Edgar recalled.
Now Edgar takes customer orders via email and phone.
“We’ll have a good conversation about what they want,” Edgar said.
He grows any type of vegetable or herb. Typically he produces the varieties he thinks are most fitting, but he also takes special orders. If a customer wants a rare pepper only grown in New Mexico, he’ll work with them to make that happen.
Edgar shows pride in both his gardening and the way he does business.
“Everything is local, organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organism). Nothing but.”
He includes taxes in his rates and delivers his orders to customers' homes.
“Going to a big box store, you don’t really know what’s in the soil. When it’s local, you know what’s what," he said.
Though his project in school was an aquaponics garden, Edgar does all his gardening in soil now. He has a small 10-by-42-foot room for both seeding and growing, but still manages to fit between 2,200 and 2,500 plants in the space.
“I have some trays in my room, some trays in the laundry room. Everything’s growing pretty good right now.”
Edgar has done his research. He reads growing guides and watches videos to learn more about growing methods, and he has a notebook where he tracks optimal pH (potential of Hydrogen) levels, water levels and soil types. He is looking to make investments to improve his process.
“He’s an amazing kid,” Condon said. “We (at Tokata) are super proud of him for what he’s doing.”
In the future, Edgar hopes to add another room to his greenhouse space, doubling its size. Ideally, he wants two seeding rooms and a separate greenhouse to grow plants after seeding.
“I want to do this the rest of my life,” Edgar said. “It just calms my mind. It’s so peaceful.”