Interview: Catherine Karpman of From the Garden Shed
Catherine Karpman is a beautiful human. A Master Gardener and creative entrepreneur at heart, Catherine has followed in the footsteps of her mother and mother before her to fulfill her 30-year dream of establishing her own farm and garden, From the Garden Shed.
You come from a family of farmers, namely your grandmother. Tell us about growing up in nature and some of the early lessons learned.
My greatest memories of my childhood stem from my summer vacations and many visits to our family farm in Alberta. My grandmother widowed at 54 ran a 680-acre grain farm, including a 1.5-acre vegetable garden, caring for chickens, cows, and pigs, plus the most beautiful flower garden that is still is imprinted in my memory. The life she lived on the farm was not always easy. I saw first hand the hard days that would bring her to tears, but her faith, her strong work ethic, and her love and pride for her work, gave her the strength to carry on. Those same virtues and amazing green thumb can be found in my mother, who could transform a neglected backyard into a urban oasis. These nurtured spaces gave us a place to feel safe and got us through some of the most difficult life stories. Creating and nurturing beautiful green spaces always brought connection and community into my life and I think that these life experiences and working with plants has had the biggest influence in both my personal and business life.
What inspired you to build a lavender farm? Why lavender?
When we purchased the land in Pemberton, we ended up with about 1/4 acre of land in the back of our home that needed to be landscaped. My decision to grow lavender came from a number of factors. Our property is very close to Miller Creek and our soil base was very sandy/silty, with very little nutrition, and we have very hot dry summers. Whatever I chose needed to be able to be able to sustain these conditions. I have always had success at growing perennials, trees and shrubs, and so I knew that my selection would fall into this category. I also have a passion for creating and designing with my hands, so I started to look at what plants I could grow that would give me this creative outlet. Lavender was one of the perennials I loved growing in sunny hot dry areas, and as I side note, I always dreamed of visiting the beautiful lavender fields of Provence. As this dream has still not happened, I decided to bring a bit of Provence to me. As no one was growing lavender at this scale in Pemberton, I decided that I would follow in the steps of my anscestors and become a pioneer in farming lavender in the Pemberton Valley. As I am limited to 1/4 acre, the harvest would not be enough for distilling, so it fit perfectly for the scale of creating dried lavender decor; allowing me the creative outlet that I was looking for. Oh and did I mention, I love lavender.
What motivates you?
Definitely being surrounded by nature motivates and inspires me, but I think the experiences and connection with others is what drives me to do what I do. I am very results driven, and love to create in an environment that inspires and delights others. Working with horticulture and knowing that it can bring a smile to someone’s face, means so much to me. I also enjoy the excitement of something new - gardening and the change of our seasons means something new is always around the corner. I love the fact that this change is reliable and is a fairly safe bet; I know that my routine will not become mundane, and this motivates me to enjoy each day.
You are known throughout the corridor as being a collaborator. Is there anyone you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't already?
Oooooh, I have quite the list. I would love to connect with wedding event planners/photographers in Pemberton to flush out my plan for lavender-inspired wedding decor. As well, I would love to collaborate with local businesses and community groups in Pemberton/Whistler, in particular Arts Whistler, Arts Pemberton, real estate and the hospitality sector. Collaboration is a great way to meet people, and I find it leads to new and exciting opportunities. I am super excited to start working in with the Pemberton Stewardship Society and Pemberton Farmers Market. As a Master Gardener in training, this collaboration allows me to continue my education and support our local community on a volunteer basis.
Where do you find daily inspiration?
Definitely my walks or activities in nature, whether it be in the mountains or in a garden. However, I don’t know what I would do without the internet - I find Pinterest and Instagram inspire me beyond my immediate borders and I do some of my best brainstorming while soaking in the tub every morning researching the web. Images or stories of other entrepreneurs, plants and nature, industrial design, art and architecture are big influencers. My morning coffee talks with my husband are great inspiration and are a good source of guidance when making business decisions.
Tell us about some of your latest offerings. What are you excited about at the moment?
I am thrilled that we are in a new season with another one around the corner. I am currently designing custom spring and summer wreaths, container gardens, with a number of workshops to teach others how to create plant based decor. I am super excited about launching my online store in the coming weeks. Being able to extend my reach to the rest of Canada beyond the local markets is going to take my business to another level. But the biggest joy will come from planting hundreds of little lavender plants this May! My little lavender farm is becoming a reality - pioneering a new industry in the Pemberton Valley.
Meet Catherine and explore the From the Garden Shed collection at our spring market, April 27 and 28 where you'll find her natural elements throughout the market space.
PHOTOGRAPHY: TARA O'GRADY