Gnomes in the Loam
local company educates, entertains kids on gardening
Three garden-savvy entrepreneurs from Chippewa Falls are leaping into the kid garden kit scene this spring with “Gerome’s Magical Garden.” The package includes seed packets, three plastic planting pots, a rake/trowel tool, a storybook with a growing calendar, stickers, and accompanying figurines.
“This is really a three-month project for a child,” says Edna Perkins, one of the founders of Enchanting Gnome Knowledge LLC. “With other garden kits, you plant and you’re done. They don’t follow through with the whole process.”
“And they aren’t as interactive,” adds Greg Raleigh, president of the gnome-themed business. “When kids are entertained and having fun, they become more interested and engaged, and educated in the process.”
The knowledge they want to impart is the importance of environmental sustainability and self-sufficiency. The three of them each tend their own gardens. “Some years the weeds win,” jokes Perkins. “But really, core to the concept was making future tenders of the earth.”
In one pot, peas and carrots will be planted together. “Just like how they’re eaten,” says Raleigh. In a second pot, radishes and lettuce will grow, and in a third, green beans and spinach. The result of thorough veggie analysis, these varieties are easy to grow, hardy, self-pollinating, and form a kid-friendly salad blend.
To encourage nurturing from first seed to last salad, the book (written mostly in rhyme), explains each of the processes. In Part 1, Gerome the Gnome, Terra the Queen of Worms, and friends talk about planting methods; Part 2 demonstrates how to water and care for the young veggies, and prepares them for harvest. In a calendar at the back of the book, kids can place stickers representing landmarks in the growing process. There are even stickers depicting friendly rain clouds.
Before the character Gerome was sketched on paper or molded from plastic, the gnome existed as a “real” figurine. “My wife thought it was creepy,” says Raleigh, explaining that Gerome’s domain was, regrettably, not the garden but the garage. To emancipate his little friend, Raleigh took practical measures – he wrote a poem to his wife, from the perspective of Gerome. The poem had more influence that he imagined. His niece saw promise in Gerome, and suggested the character be brought to life in a book. From there, Raleigh approached coworker Perkins, whom he remembered had expressed a passion for writing children’s books. The newly formed duo then recruited self-employed graphic artist and illustrator Kris Gausman.
Since October, they’ve been thinking through every aspect of the magical garden’s creation. The containers are made from 100 percent recycled pop bottles, the packaging paper comes from the “tail ends” of the Chippewa Herald, and the trowel/rake tool can be tossed in the bin with your 2’s and 7’s. And the only components not made locally or in America are Gerome and Terra – but Raleigh says they’re looking for a way to change that. Finally, Chippewa River Industries, a local production facility staffed by the developmentally disabled, is going to be assembling and shrink wrapping the product starting April 8.
The three founders have already envisioned future kits based on Gerome and his buddies. A birthday party pack would include smaller, individual planting pots that kids could take home as favors.
The kits are geared toward ages 4 and older, and their suggested retail price is $24.99. Locally, they’ll be available at the Potting Shed in Altoona, Klinger’s, Borders, Foreign Five in Chippewa Falls, and more. They will also be available at Amazon and www.geromethegnome.com.