Episode 470: A conversation with Kim Gruetter and Tonneli Gruetter of Whidbey Island’s Salty Acres Farm
September 9th, 2020
In early 2019, I reconnected with Kim Gruetter of Salty Acres Farm at a Washington Flowers Project florists’ gathering. She reminded me that we’d had a few email exchanges back when I first launched Slow Flowers in 2014, and introduced me to her daughter Tonneli Gruetter. Together, with their spouses, Kim and Tonneli own Salty Ares Farm in the town of Coupeville, Washington, on Whidbey Island.
Kim’s husband and Tonneli’s father Paul Gruetter and Tonneli’s husband John Loughman, are definitely part of the diverse family-owned farm and little guy Sauvie is the youngest human living on the family farm.
We had a great conversation about what they both were doing and I learned it was not just flowers! Kim told me about the “salt” of Salty Acres, which is one of their signature agricultural products along with edible flowers.
Tonneli, who calls herself a millenial, fascinated me with her story of working in the sales, marketing and branding in the tech industry, a fabulous skill set that she brings to Salty Acres.
A few months later, Travis Rigby of Florists’ Review asked me if had any suggestions for a new digital marketing position he had created. Did I know anyone who might be a good fit for the job? For some amazing reason, Tonneli popped into my memory and I introduced the two of them. For the past year, Tonneli has collaborated with Florists’ Review on all sorts of projects, including the magazine’s social media, which you can’t miss if you follow them on Instagram. Tonneli’s enthusiasm has spilled over into the floral community and to many, she is the face of Florists’ Review on its IG stories, events and sponsorships.
When I knew I was going to have a minication getaway on Whidbey Island in late August, I invited myself to Salty Acres Farm. The farm is located on historic Penn Cove, outside the historic Coupeville. Here’s a bit more of their story, from the “about” page on Salty Acres’ website:
Originally brought to the island by the Navy, Tonneli and John thought their farming roots were somewhere in the past when the opportunity of a lifetime appeared: a new start at a historic farm on Penn Cove. It didn’t take long before the magic of the place got to them, and their thoughts of Whidbey as just another Navy posting faded.
Around this same time Kim and Paul were facing another story all too common for farmers. Rising property costs and rapid urbanization were forcing farmers (themselves included) away from Oregon’s Willamette Valley where they had farmed for generations. Seeing this shift Tonneli and John urged her parents to visit Whidbey Island. “Imagine a place where you can farm and the community supports you,” Tonneli urged her parents.
For Paul, who learned to farm from his father who had immigrated to Oregon’s Sauvie’s Island to work the land, moving roots wasn’t. Upon arriving on Penn Cove it only took a single sunrise over the water to convince them, this was home and a new agricultural collective calling for the whole family.
Today, Salty Acres, specializes in locally-grown flowers, small batch sea salt, foraged ocean greens, & specialty produce. From June to October customers can shop at their permanent farm stand on Penn Cover Road, at pop-up sales around the Coupeville area, and at their community greenhouse on the historic Greenbank Farm campus.
With COVID this year, the women have had to adapt some of their offerings, especially on-farm events, workshops and their regular stall at the Coupeville Farmers’ Market. But the requests continue and they are currently reimagining what 2021 may look like. Keep an eye out for announcements by following Salty Acres on social media.
Find and follow Salty Acres here:
Salty Acres on Facebook
Salty Acres on Instagram
Thanks so much for joining me today for my conversation with Kim and Tonneli. My head is spinning when I think about their energy and their passion – and how they seem to create entrepreneurial opportunities out of thin air.
I hope the time you spent with this episode is equally overflowing with new ideas. The thread of community is woven through all that this dynamic mom-and-daughter team are doing, along with Paul, who is equally involved in the operations of Salty Acres.
Check out some of Salty Acres’ collaborators and flower outlets, which we discussed in the episode:
3 Sisters Market
Captain Whidbey Inn
Their equation seems to begin with Flowers Plus [fill in the blank] Equals a Win-Win for everyone. It’s truly the Slow Flowers ethos.
JOIN US AT THE SEPTEMBER SLOW FLOWERS MEMBER (VIRTUAL MEET-UP
Now, More than Ever, Your Slow Flowers Membership Gives You an Important Story to Share with Your Community and Your Customers. Our monthly Slow Flowers Member Virtual Meet-Up is coming right up this Friday, the 11th of September — on Zoom.
I’m excited that we’ll enjoy some seasonal design inspiration with special guest, TJ McGrath. TJ is the lead designer and content creator for the Blue Jasmine Floral studio, a Slow Flowers member studio led by Paulina Nieliwocki in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. All summer long, I’ve been enchanted by the floral designs that TJ posts on his personal IG feed @tjmcrathdesign. I asked him to demonstrate one of his signature foam-free arrangements and talk about his philosophy and style.
You’re invited to join us. Click here for details. Bring your insights and ideas to the community. I’ll share the link in today’s show notes — 9 am Pacific/Noon Eastern. And, like all of our member meet-ups, we’ll have some giveaways to sweeten the deal!
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS
This podcast is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, nationwide online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms. It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.
And thank you to Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. Read our stories at slowflowersjournal.com.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Find the full catalog of flower seeds and bulbs at johnnysseeds.com.
Mayesh Wholesale Florist. Family-owned since 1978, Mayesh is the premier wedding and event supplier in the U.S. and we’re thrilled to partner with Mayesh to promote local and domestic flowers, which they source from farms large and small around the U.S. Learn more at mayesh.com.
The Gardener’s Workshop, which offers a full curriculum of online education for flower farmers and farmer-florists. Online education is more important this year than ever, and you’ll want to check out the course offerings at thegardenersworkshop.com
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As our movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto iTunes and posting a listener review.
The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at soundbodymovement.com.
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