Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 21 · 2 years ago

Talking to Urban Agriculture Pioneers Tereska Gesing and Shawn Manning


How difficult is it to run a seasonal business, raise a family and own property together? Tereska Gesing and Shawn Manning, co-owners of Urban Seedling with cousin Trevor Manning do it, and they're still having fun. To read the show notes, refer to

My name is Traciereo and I am unapologetically Canadian. Hey, today I'm interviewing Sean Manning and RUSCA guessing. They are co owners of urban seedling. They're also life partners and they live in ver done and they, Trusca is also serves with me on the board of grant potage, which we are all members of. So High Hump, Hi Tusca, welcome to unapologetically Cannay. Thank you very much for having us. Okay, so if each of you can introduce yourselves first on an individual point and say the thing you care about most about your job. Go ahead, Sean, because you've had a good week. First up. Yeah, because this is a good week in a great week, in a great week. So my name is seawan manning. I was helped start urban seedling, which is our fantastic company that we started together and and with our my cousin, Trevor Manning, who is not here, and things that I like most of my business. Our business is very simple. I love seeing the effect that teaching people well of teaching. So I guess that's the thing that I like the best about our business is teaching, but more specifically teaching people how to have, just teaching them to to to get you know that it's okay to get your hands dirty and it's okay to make mistakes and have a vegetable garden, which is really what it's all about. It's about having successes and failures, just like everything in life, and it's a great way to learn to take life a little bit less seriously and just kind of go with the flow and it doesn't always work, but you try your best and you have fun doing it, and I find that that is my kind of motto for everything in Life and and that gardening is really what got me there, which is kind of weird, but it is. That's the truth. That's really that's that's kind of who I am and and doing that, more specifically in schools with kids, is something that is so fun to do and it's tiring, but it's really very rewarding and I love doing that. So I guess that would be perfect. Okay, my name is TERRESCA guessing I and Co owner of urban seedling. With my partner here, we have a vegetable gardening company and our mission is to encourage Montre hollers to grow food in the city. So be that. At their home, the schools are day cares in the workplace and we have a garden center at the Verdune greenhouses where we sell exclusively edible plants and we really like Shawn with saying dismal plants, pollinators, majoritarily edible plants. And Yeah, so we give a lot of workshops and and the educational portion is very important to our company. My proudest thing or favorite thing about what we're doing is we started back in two thousand and ten nobody was talking about urban agriculture. Nobody thought that, you know, it is just like a tiny little niche today was...

...talking about and so it's been really fun to kind of get in on the ground floor of what is now a movement that has taken on a lot of steam and it's very exciting. And so through my work as the owner of urban seedling, I'm able to be involved in all sorts of other great urban agriculture movements like that keeps Fay mofial and like all you know there's a great urban agriculture project coming on the rooftop of a big parking lot in dame called Connie to and of course our wonderful copapege urban agriculture center, also at the Verdun greenhouses. So what really gets me out of bed in the morning is that kind of larger scale planning and being able to grow the idea of and the practice of urban agriculture in Montreal at municipal level. And I should mention that because people listeners to the podcast knowing me from my winter world, which is notable nonfiction, but in the summer I'm a full bodied member of Grand Potaje and in the movement, the Urban Aga Culture Movement, with these guys. That's why we know each other. So Board, member of the board, founding founding member. We're all your members together. It all happened in the in there on that rainy day. That's right. Know Each Other and we are all part of the same urban agriculture movement. But what's really fascinating about the way your business runs is you guys have created an entrepreneurial force in this relatively new industry and you're getting quite a name for yourself. Maybe we can talk about what happened with Shawn this week in terms of education. I think that's a big scoop. Scoop. Yeah, I guess I can talk about it. It's going to when is this going to be? We can talk about that after you know. So this week I was invited to take part in an evaluation of perfection for the future profession of a horticulturalist specializing in I'management durable. So what is image? Mon Durable? I'm sorry, staying in French for like two days and I stainable landscaping, sustainable landscaping. So and I was. So this was with the Minister of Education, Ministry of Education, not the minister. I don't know that that. He was not there. She was not there, but there was a I was part of a panel of or a group of thirteen there, specialist horticulturalist that are in specific areas of sustainable landscaping, and I was there representing the edible landscaping kind of an urban agriculture and and and that's its urban agriculture and edible landscaping side of it. And between the thirteen of us, we essentially are creating the curriculum to train the future generation of horticulturalist that want to then take the next step in their education. And so it's going to be offered as a specialization after they graduate their their deck in an in in horticulture to become a specialist as someone that is specializing and sustainable horticulturals practice and stuff at that. So it was really, really interesting. I got to meet some amazing people and learned a lot about a lot of different aspects of sustainable, you know,...

...agriculture. That that are that I didn't really know much about and I'm super excited to dive really deeper into a few of those areas and learn more about it and maybe incorporate some of those things into into what we do at or been seedling, because we always wanted, you know, the initially our goal was to just be, you know, to do urban agriculture and to teach people how to grow food and and as an entrepreneur and wanting to be, you know, not go bankrupt, Bible, I. Successful. That's like a whole other ball game. We just want to survive. And when I see them the next season and so, you know, you can only really fend vegetables for so long in the season. You know, like this, it's a season within a season within a season that you can actually make, you know, do work and make money and pay your bills and your trucks and your employees and all your things, and so we kind of were forced into well forced, we decided that it would be in our best interest to do a few more traditional you know, offer more traditional services like landscaping, and that's in my I have background in that, you know, I am. I my family, we're all entrepreneurs and all involved in different, you know, aspects of construction and and so I learned how to do a lot of that landscaping stuff when I was younger and Trevor and Trevor, our partner, is what you know, that's the aspect of our business that he is really you know, helped to grow that side of it so that we can continue working and stay, you know, stay above above board. But that's not what we initially intended in, or is it really part of what we want to be doing. You know, none of our none of us, want to do uni stone like. It's not what we don't mind. Well, we don't mind doing well. I mean you don't do UNIS, I don't like doing it, you know. But I think you're trying to say is that we're really excited to take our business into an even more sustainable future and to be able to really do better in the world in all parts of a business, so that our success is entrepreneur R's. The more success we had, the better. The the the world is in a little way well, and, to be fair, the sustainable landscaping movement is growing, and so it is the kind of thing that people are getting a lot more informed about, and so, all of you, we'd do more. yeafully. We are, you know, well placed and well, you know like it is. It is. We actually care about it and we actually want to do it. You know, it's not like someone who is approaching a big, you know, big, huge company and saying, Oh, can you do this, like, you know, sustainable thing that I've heard about or that I've read about, and the company being like, Oh, well, you know, we don't really do that, but I don't know, let's see, maybe we can do a little bit of something like that for you, whereas I would like to position ourselves as being, you know, expert experts in those specific fields, and that'll set us apart, and that's what, you know, we drive for. Right. And what about you? What easier other than continuing in the same direction? Do you have any dreams that are bigger than where you would like the company to go because your fruit. Out of the two of you, you're sort of the business entrepreneur mind that's how I see it. Yes, no, I really, I really want to continue to be a big part of developing the industry across the Greater...

Montreal region. So urban ceiling right now, I believe, is considered a leader in the industry and I want to continue to develop the market and to really push hard on adding more and more and more people who are interested in just rethinking the way that they view their garden and that they view their yard and to automatically thing I wanted to become mainstream, to look at your yard and say this should be an edible oasis, like there should be pollinator gardens and there should be, you know, a huge vegetable garden that's super productive and there should be fruit trees and there should be a berry hedge instead of Cedars, and and to really also think about maintaining their yard in an ecological way and that the default should not traditional gardening should not automatically equal using pesticides and herbicides and planting plants that are not meant to be in our climate and then trying to manage them with all sorts of chemicals. I don't want that to be the default anymore. So, you know, to work on, on, on getting people excited about by our diversity, get them excited about indigenous plants, get them excited about growing food and and that's really where I see our strength as a company. And so I think that in collaborating with other like I in a small niche like ours, I honestly don't believe in competition. I don't think it's real. I think it's a fiction. We have such a small kind of corner of the gardening market that the more people that are out there are practicing or ban agriculture and knocking on doors and talking about vegetable gardens and talking about by a diversity, the better it is for everybody. And so I think in terms of growing our business, well, I hope anyway, that's the work that I'm doing outside of Urvan seedling to really push the development of the of the market for everybody. High tide raising all ships. That that's where I see the growth potential for our business is, is making the market itself bigger. Right, okay. So and then now we need to go into the moving towards and working together and how. Each one of you has different strengths and how, but you still live together, you raise a family together and you work together, which to many couples would think that would be a bit of a challenge. I'd like to hear you and it's so and times day we're talking to every day is a blessing. But honestly, I find it really easy. I don't find it difficult at all and I only wish there was more time and every day is that's honestly. That that is the the biggest challenge. Is that? The fact that we're both so busy working and taking care of the kids and making the lunches and doing the this and that and bedtime and we're so tired we don't actually get the same time together, to spend as much time together. So that's that is ironic. Yeah, you do everything together together, but it's always like passing the towards. Where am I supposed to be? Okay, I'm taking calendar. Okay, where are you? Late, sicking to having to call the persons. I'm calling the first we do we do it, we communicate, we we work through everything, we support each other, we help each other. I like to think that you know, I you know,...

I try my best to do all those things and and I think because we jumped into this adventure together without a lot of for thought and and it could have, you're right, that, I could have been really disastrous and and we didn't really consider that before starting the business together. But I think the thing that has made it really easy is that Shan and I are very different in our skill set and so it's really obvious who's going to do what. Like there's no kind of ambiguity there. There's no you should have done this, you should have done that, because it's just really I have strengths in administration and the office and in the kind of more broader strategic planning, and Sean is really really skilled at going out and meeting with clients and doing sales and being out there on the ground every day doing the work. So, yeah, I would agree a hundred percent that the biggest struggle is was starting a family and a business at the same time. was another lack of four. Having three young kids and start up not recommended, and a home. We're also landlords. We have tenants and yeah, it's fortunately they're wonderful, but yeah, that's you know, each day is a new day and we just take it one day at a time. Cliche A cliche. All the cliches are true. There cliches because they're true. That's where cliches COMP is there? I do of any hints for other couples who are thinking about doing this kind of thing, like, if you were to do it for again, what would you almost like a marriage course? Would you do a let's start a business, where is start a business together, course and if so, what would you cover? I mean, how how do you deal with finances? Those or that's people have a hard time discussing that in their home life and you guys have a home life and a business life and a rental property to run, division of Labor visually, where I don't deal with finances, and in my receipts when I handed my receipts, you know I should do a better job of this year it will be every day and you know, if to Resco will let me know when we need more money. And then I have another job, so I will work more on my other job when I when I have to. I also manage a catering company and do events and weddings and and things like that, and so you know when. But for the most part, and as far as like advice, I would say to just, you know, obviously just like listen to the person and know what they want to hear. That in that like sometimes people, when people complain about something, it's because they want to feel hurt. Right. So when they're having a hard time, and that's you might be for every might be having a hard time too, and you might be bitchy and you might be, you know, annoyed and you might be not wanting to hear or deal with their stuff. But you just have to like, and it's as simple as like, that sucks, I'm sorry that you feel that way and that's it. You don't have to like because if you like, well, I'm having a shooty day too. Sorry, I'm apologizing and I'm Katie. I'm sorry, I'm but sometimes you just need to you know,... a breath and listen and hear and say that sucks, and that's it. You don't have to have the solution, which is my something I always try and come up with, like Oh, you should do this or you should do that, or why are you not doing this or why are you not doing that? And this is how you'll feel better. That doesn't. That does. So tell me. Should we like? You know, that's go be like would you let and it'll, it'll, it'll turn into. Well, what do you think? I'm not already doing that? Or you think I'm not? Oh, I mean, that sucks. Thank you. That's all I wanted to hear. And eventually that message gets through, you know, and and I'll do it sometimes too, but I don't. You know. Yeah, my advice, and again I think this is a good advice across the board, something that I've learned over the years in managing employees and and being on committees and and, you know, collaboration, is that it's just work. You can't make professional things personal and you can't take things personally, and I think that just in our personality types, John and I both just kind of as a default, don't take that kind of stuff personally. But I could see maybe a challenge for couples who already taking personally with each other that that, you know, that being in business together just amplifies everything. So if you have a couple who already fight, like we don't really fight very often, and so I think if you're already before your question was you know, before starting a business together with to to con center and I would say, you know, do we fight? Are we able to separate business from personal and are we able, like Sean said, to listen to each other and to and to just like you know, to the answer to any of those things is no, that don't start. Don't do it to actually cool and it. Just put that as a checklists. And my last question for both of you, each each of you separately, is are do you consider yourself a Canadian and, if so, what does that mean to you? So this time, you think, very interesting question. I'm actually really excited to hear what sness. Yeah, but you're going to go for I know I will say I am from Ontario and things this is not a question. In Ontario, obviously a Canadian kind of underlying politics of Canadianism and language policies and all that are totally different from where I come from. But I've been here for twenty years, so I'm starting to understand and I so I absolutely do consider myself Canadian. I also wanted to mention that I am first generation immigrant. My parents are immigrated from Poland. You just stopped because gatbatteries are going and I all right that. So you are yes. So I was born in Ontario. I'm I am the child of in Polish immigrants. They met here, so my family has been in Canada. You know, on my Polish is terrible, but also, you know, my grandparents came here with nothing and and and there. You know, I think this is common for a lot of immigrant families, is that the goal is... become Canadian and being Canadian is a huge point of pride and and I have always believed that and I love this country and I think that it is the best place on earth to live. You know, we have really a lot going for us here in Canada. So I definitely do consider myself a Canadian and I think the most important thing for me when thinking about being Canadian is the freedom we have to disagree with each other. And you know, like, if I think of other countries, obviously that are oppressed or under dictatorship. That's an extreme example, but even, you know, the United States, everything super polarized or in Europe there's a lot of kind of old world hangover, notions about gender roles or other attitudes. I just feel like here, and especially in Montreal, everyone is free to live their own life and color it the way they want to color it and and we have a nice, big and wide social safety net, so people like Sean and I can go out on a limb and start a business in a family at the same time, which I'm pretty sure we would not be able to do anywhere else. So yeah, that's my answer. That's right. Well, thank you. So, yes, not really something that I've ever thought about really, to be perfectly honest, like I just it's all I know and I consider myself to be Canadian. I I've always, you know, been a happy and proud Canadian. As far as what it is into particular, I just I don't know that I love where I live. I've always I grew up in Montreal. I never even really left Montreal until I was you know, I haven't really traveled around that that much. I've been around, know I've traveled a bit, but everywhere I go I Miss Montreal. I lived in La for a while and I didn't like it. I didn't. I mean it was nice and warm. That was great. You know, yeah, the weather was bad, but why you talk about if? You know, that's like if I can't complain about the weather and I have the definers and the guy who works with defin her and you say, Oh boy, it's cold out, an he's a little boy, old boys. Yeah, okay, by Jimmy, Oh yeah, okay, by Sean, okay, and and that's I love that and I love I love you know that it is the city that that that that we're in here is a total little melting pot. There are so many little different communities and and and seeing and interacting and more and more just I don't know, I think that it's it's a beautiful, beautiful place to live. The great people are very, very kind, except when we're driving, which is not so we're less kind. But I love the fact that I can hope my horn and, you know, shake my fist and someone else will be like yeah, shake, and that's okay, and I will park and I will say hi there and say hi, yeah, Nice Day, all beautiful and I love hockey and I love beer and they am there. You Go. Oh, thank you very much. I really for thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. This episode...

...was brought to you by Loofa Montreal it's rooftop garden operator. Use My Code Tia, five thousand one hundred and seven to get a weekly vegetable basket and we'll both get ten dollars off one delivery.

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