On the Broad Side of the Barn
As we transition from spring’s bright flashy annuals into a more rustic, autumn mindset, the seasonal change can’t help but remind us of the transitions we’ve seen as a company over the years. There have been so many in over 65 years of business, and our barn has seen them all and then some! So, with all the attention we pay to our plants on this blog, we figured the barn deserved a little shout-out too 🙂
No one is exactly sure of the original erection date for the Van Putte barn, but we know from Grace Justice Van Putte’s memoir (one of the company founders) that it was there in 1878. Her grandfather, Alfred Mitchell, purchased the farm in 1871 and erected the barn at some point after that, so we know the barn has seen at least 136 years, if not up to 143, by this point!
Grace and her husband Willard purchased the current Van Putte Gardens property (and barn) from Mitchell in 1936, the year they got married. They spent over ten years growing hay, grain, vegetables and berries for sale at Rochester’s Public Market, and grew their business until they founded Van Putte Seed Co. in 1948. At that time they expanded their farming operations to include selling seeds, vegetable plants and other supplies to area farmers, and eventually added grass seed, trees and shrubs to their stock.
As we mentioned, the barn has seen plenty of changes in its many years. Early on, the north side of the barn stored the hay Willard and Grace grew, while the south side housed a grainery and stalls for draft horses and a cow. When their children were born, Grace and Willard turned the stalls into a home for a couple of ponies for two of their daughters. In the mid-1960s, the barn was remodeled to remove the cow enclosure and chicken coop, and a concrete floor and seed-blending machinery was installed.
Van Putte Seed Co. spent the rest of the ’60s through the late ’70s blending wholesale bird and grass seed in the barn and selling out of the retail store next door. A few years after Grace and Willard’s son Carl and his wife Sue became owners of Van Putte Gardens in 1977, suburban development led the company to change gears again, this time away from the wholesale side of things toward a more retail customer mindset (and discontinuing the bird seed blending operation). Carl and Sue passed ownership of the company to their son Kyle and daughter Holly last year and the barn is now used for grass seed storage as well as other equipment and supplies. However, Carl will sometimes still have to make up a special grass seed blend for a customer or our landscape division and will use some of the original machinery still housed in the barn!
So next time you visit us, take a look just north of the garden center on North Ave. and you’ll see the red Van Putte Seed Co. barn peeking out from behind the house that sits at the front of the property. We’re proud that our barn and the company it has housed have stood the test of time… our barn definitely proves the old adage, “sturdy as a barn door!”