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The Buzz Behind Hummingbird Gardens

Amanda's home garden which has blossomed into Hummingbird Gardens

Amanda's home garden which has blossomed into Hummingbird Gardens

Amanda Montgomery has taken over her neighbor’s yard.  Her Bon Air garden is overflowing with a bounty of new herbs and flowers to share through her business.

Hummingbird Gardens has begun supplying those garden shares to local restaurants like Saison, Savory Grain, and Perk.  

Through the business, Amanda now helps the Weinstein JCC maintain a garden for a preschool program for which she also teaches.  She’s growing her business through coaching garden practices and expanding the CSA program.  

Amanda Montgomery

Amanda Montgomery

She shares more about her business and what owners can expect when working with Hummingbird Gardens (and why you should join her mailing list).

How did you become interested in gardening?  
I started to become interested in food my sophomore year at VCU because of a social justice class I was taking. Beginning to learn about food and access (or the lack of) to quality food, labor issues, pesticide use, etc. and framing it through the lens of social justice changed the course of my life. So, shout out to Dr. Mark Wood! 

That class got the ball rolling. All my life I had been firmly in the ‘no veggies’ camp, accusing my mom of sneaking onions into my scrambled eggs (turns out I was a bit of a super taster! When chickens eat alliums they can pass the flavor onto their eggs.). So, I started trying new veggies, learning how to cook, and reading voraciously. All of this ultimately led to wanting to know more about how to grow things myself. 

I started with herbs, volunteering at Tricycle Gardens, and watching YouTube videos. Fast forward a bit and I moved to Pittsburgh to get a graduate degree in Food Studies at Chatham University. I worked on an awesome lady run small farm called Churchview Farm both seasons I was there. 

Tara works with restaurants, had had a small CSA at the time, and started doing farm dinners the season after I left. Churchview is something I looked to when modeling Hummingbird Gardens. 

Chili and rose herb salt

Chili and rose herb salt

What inspired you to make this into a business?  
I’ve always wanted to start my own business but I just didn’t how what that would look like. I really wanted to use my degree as much as I could. We bought our house in 2013 not only because we liked the house but because I LOVED the yard.

I had dreams of chickens and bees and lots of garden beds all around the house and finally thought maybe I could make a go at having a business with a “yard farm” at the center of it. After a two hour lunch at Stella’s with Stephanie Ganz, the dots started to connect and I decided to focus on herbs and edible flowers because it’s the best use of my space and I want to complement what our other really amazing local farmers and producers are providing. At the time I didn’t realize I’d enjoy growing cut flowers so much so the vision has flexibility and I’m still playing around with the balance at the garden.

What’s behind the name?
Hummingbird Gardens hit me like a truck when I was standing on my deck trying to figure out what to call this whole thing. My grandmother had passed away in 2012 and she was our family gardener. I have ended up with a lot of her gardening supplies (and garden gnomes! SO. MANY. GNOMES.). She loved hummingbirds so it’s really an homage to her. In addition though, I draw strength from the story of the hummingbird as told by Wangari Maathai, who founded the Green Belt Movement. 

My mantra is “be a hummingbird” when I get overwhelmed by the problems of the day and it helps reaffirm the power in doing all that you can no matter how big or small you are.

Baby lettuce getting ready for a new season.

Baby lettuce getting ready for a new season.

What can restaurant owners expect when working with Hummingbird Gardens?
Restaurants can expect some awkward witticisms in their weekly newsletter for Garden Share. They can expect me to get up before the sun pretty much every day because that’s the best time to harvest their herbs and edible flowers. They can expect me to stress about how cool the cooler is when I’m making deliveries on Thursdays. They can expect me to show up with herb salts that I’m experimenting with and talk about nerdy ways to use them. 

They can expect me to value their feedback and invite them and their staff to the garden to taste and see all the cool pollinators. I think they can really expect that I will value their support and our partnership because without them my business wouldn’t exist.

What have you learned about marketing and growing a business that you can share with others?
Well, I have learned (and am still learning) that people want to see your face. They want to know you and if you’re uncomfortable with that you have to move beyond that feeling and let them see you. I think that people now more than ever want to know who you are when they give you their money and they want to know what you’re about. 

I’m one of those people that has been uncomfortable with that because I thought that by focusing on myself I was not focusing on my products, my philosophy, or the larger issues I’m trying to address through my business. It felt inauthentic. But, there’s a balance that you try to achieve and I’m sure I’ll always be working towards that.

What can your customers expect in this year’s garden share?
Funky stuff! Color! Flavor! Vietnamese Coriander! 

Again, awkward weekly newsletters! I cannot stress that enough!  Really though, you’re going to see the freshest herbs and edible flowers in the city including 8 kinds of basil.

Learn more about Hummingbird Gardens on their website and Facebook page.