Going Barefoot in the garden

Photo by Laura Metcalfe

Jennifer Whyte, owner of Barefoot Veggie, inspects the herbs she has growing in her garden.

Jennifer Whyte loves the feeling of earth beneath her feet as she walks through her backyard garden, the garden that is her livelihood. Her business is Barefoot Veggies.

Durham College helped her start the company when she was a student in the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Program at Durham College. She used FastStart, an on-campus resource that helps students start up their businesses.

“Through FastStart they helped me with things like my logos, marketing materials, figuring out all the little details involved with getting a business going,” says Whyte, who already had the idea but wasn’t sure where to start.

Whyte is sensitive to the chemicals used by farms to keep pests from destroying crops. She likes her vegetables to be grown in a “pure” environment, meaning no pesticides or other harmful chemicals used in the growth process.

Laura Metcalfe Fresh habanero peppers picked from Whyte's garden.
Laura Metcalfe
Fresh habanero peppers picked from Whyte’s garden.

“You can’t beat the freshness ‘cause you literally pick it out of the ground when you’re here,” says Whyte. Her garden consists of boxes of dirt and compost, which includes coffee grinds, as well as a shed where she hang dries herbs.

Jay Fisher, a professor with the school of Business, IT and Management, taught Whyte for two years and helped develop her branding and networking skills. Fisher spends part of his time with the FastStart program. Through FastStart, he has helped develop all types of business ideas.

Whyte says he wouldn’t just give her the answers she wanted, he made her work for it. She appreciates this approach now because it gave her the skills to find solutions after she graduated.

Whyte has created a Facebook page for her business and posts regularly about the progress of her crop. She also has a website in development, which she hopes to have running by the end of winter.

This is the first year Whyte has not been in school since starting her business, so this winter she will focus on expanding her business so she can have a reliable income.

“I’ve been doing a lot of canning and stuff so a lot of my herbs I save,” says Whyte, who is learning how to make jams so she can sell them to caterers or other businesses.

“I dry (herbs) and I’m jarring them all and bag them and divvy them up and sell them that way cause a lot of people want the herbs still,” says Whyte. She is also thinking about making candles and essential oils from her herbs but admits it takes a lot of product to make the oils.

She says this year is about expanding her customer base, creating networking opportunities, and thinking of new products she can make with surplus product. She hopes to add candles, potpourri, and jams to her brand. Clients have asked her to create gardens for their backyards too.


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Laura is a second year journalism student at Durham College. She enjoys writing for campus, current affairs, and profile for The Chronicle. She loves to read and watch educational documentaries. Her work can be seen on Riot Radio. She hopes to work for CP24.