By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- Evan Walters, 25, went on a long walk and came back with an idea.
That walk was a 600-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail and his idea led to the formation of his new startup company, Garden In A Day.
Garden In A Day helps people grow fruits, herbs and vegetables in their own backyard. Customers have dozens of choices, ranging from kale, tomatoes and grapes to chamomile, chives and basil, and can arrange for Walters to install a raised bed of organic soil and the desired plants.
For people who travel often or those who might be too busy to care for their gardens, Walters can also install an irrigation system or prune and water the plants as part of an added maintenance plan.
A firm believer in the do it yourself movement, Walters has brewed his own beer and made his own kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt. But wasn't until he was midway through his chemistry coursework at Juniata College in central Pennsylvania that he discovered a love for gardening. That year, in 2010, he decided to hike the Appalachian Trail.
He started in Georgia and figured he would complete the full distance to Maine, but an overnight pit stop kept him longer than expected. A farm in southwestern Virginia near Blacksburg, called the Woods Hole Farm and Hostel turned out to be his source of inspiration.
"Can I just stay here and help you out for a little while?" he remembers asking one of the owners. "I thought what they were doing was really interesting."
He ended up staying at the farm for a month. Woods Hole, which he described as a "mountain retreat for hikers," had just entered its second year by the time he arrived.
Last year, he returned to the farm for a few months to help out with gardening. He picked vegetables for salads and dinners for hikers, learned how to graft apple trees and installed raised beds and a perennial plot of fruit trees and cherry bushes.
Since then, he's visited other Virginia farms as well as ones in Pennsylvania, Vermont and Maine to learn more.
Originally from Ashburn, the Winchester transplant started Garden In A Day about three months ago to "blur the line between urban and rural." Noticing a trend of more people in the cities and suburbs wanting fresh organic food, Walters said that instead of them driving to farmers markets, he would bring the market to their backyards.
"They get to be a part of the garden and the growing process and they get to see their tomato plant grow and they just pick the tomatoes right there," he said. "And it's like a five-second walk instead of driving all the way to a farm and getting fresh produce.
"Or you can get organic produce at Wegmans, but it's not the same, taste-wise, and for the most part, feeling-wise," the former store employee said. "There's not as strong of a connection with the produce department as there is with your own garden."
Love & Carrots is a Washington, D.C., company that's cashed in on this trend. Describing itself as an "edible landscaping" service, the company has a similar mission to Garden In A Day, to "grow the bounty of the farmers market just outside your kitchen door."
Unlike the D.C. company's custom-designed gardens, the "one size fits all" approach utilized by Walters' raised beds, measuring 7 feet by 3 feet, offers more affordable rates.
Raised beds start at $400 and are $10 per foot for plants, with a $35 base cost.
Because these plants not only return year after year but also multiply, he said it doesn't take long for the plants to earn back their value.
"It's like a gift that keeps on giving every month, every year," he said.
The new Discovery Museum location opening in Winchester next spring will have a rooftop garden that will offer classes to children. Walters said he hopes to partner up with local schools and daycares to install plant beds and teach similar classes about where their food comes from. He said he plans to offer workshops throughout the year to educate people on gardening.
Citing several scientific articles linked on his website, he said gardening helps kids achieve higher science test scores and lowers the chance of osteoporosis in others.
During the winter months, he's selling a "Garden In A Basket," which can be purchased as a gift and includes a raised bed and gardening supplies. Customers who order raised beds before Jan. 15 can receive 10 percent off their order. Walters said he will begin installing beds in mid-January.
For more information, including a full list of the plants offered, visit gardeninaday.com or call Walters at 571-221-4926.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org