Suzanne Brillat of Think Unique Gardens has been passionate about growing since she planted her first herb garden as a child. She has been one of the most popular and knowledgeable vendors at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market for many years because she generously gives advice to anyone who asks. She also has an amazing selection of lush, healthy plants!
Suzanne owns approximately 21 acres of mostly old-growth forest in Estacada, Oregon. She grows 70 varieties of tomato plants and a large assortment of vegetable starts, herbs, annuals & perennials. She also has an affinity for unique, non-edible plants. The “Black Rose” Aeonium is one of the most unusual, a succulent whose leaves grow darker as they are exposed to more sunlight.
Everything Suzanne grows is fertilized naturally, without chemicals. She uses manure from her chickens, turkeys, rabbit, geese and ducks and also adds kelp. “It’s the whole farm thing that makes it all work, I think! Kelp brings it back to where we all started. I even use eggshells to supplement for calcium. Investing more into my chickens this year was the right thing to do for my customers (and their response) makes it all worth it”! She also sells her eggs at HFM but they sell out fast, so come early!
Suzanne’s plants also get a healthy dose of music and OPB everyday. She can tell how well her plants are doing by how they respond to her dancing in the aisles of the greenhouse when she plays music. “My peppers like the dancing the most!”
It’s a rewarding business but also very hard work. Suzanne starts packing for the Saturday market on Friday. “I look around for the plant that has that ‘I want to go home with someone’ look. I try to see each plant as a living connection to all. I guess you could call it respect.” On Saturday morning she packs eggs while drinking coffee, then does a quick inventory before heading out the door at 5 A.M.
Suzanne started her business after working 15 years for Intel. She’d been unable to have a child after 8 years of marriage so she decided to research various herbs that were thought to improve fertility. Nine months later she gave birth to a baby boy and says she still grows and sells every herb that helped her. Suzanne’s 14 year-old son grew up at the farmers’ markets and he now assists her with the business, as do a few of her friends.
Think Unique Gardens can also be found at the Vancouver Farmers Market (Sunday) and soon at the Interstate Farmers Market (Wednesday) and Lloyd Farmers’ Market (Tuesday).
Suzanne had some final words about her philosophy. “I always remind my customers that what you give to your plants, you receive – and recycling everything, even my knowledge, is a part of the whole…like all pots*, bags, etc. Growing organically is challenging but I really have a hard time giving up on a plant so I’ll give it several years, and almost always I’ll find a way to make it flourish”.
With that kind of attitude and patience, it’s no surprise that Suzanne is a successful mother, grower and businesswoman!
(* A Reminder…bring used pots to Suzanne’s booth, she’ll happily reuse & recycle them!)
Written by Carla Kay Drain, HFM Volunteer, 2009