ST. ALBANS — Last year, Johnny Ireland, 9, wanted to run a pumpkin pie business and make enough money to buy some toys.

Thanks to the donation of pumpkin seeds by the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery store, Swanton resident Andrew Judge’s project organization, and the help of friend and business partner Jackson Hayes, 8, Ireland was able to do it. The two boys started J&J Gardens in the backyard and kitchen of Ireland’s St. Albans residence, and the pair planted, grew, and baked pies, made some pumpkin bread and pumpkin puree.

After donating one-third of the money to Northwest Family Foods – they made a total of about $300 – Ireland and Hayes bought some Nerf guns.

This year, the pair want to do it all again. With the help of Judge’s project Seeds For Growth, Ireland and Hayes will be able to.

Planting seeds

Ireland’s business got its start last year when he met Judge in The Traveler’s Cup coffee shop one day last spring. Ireland told Judge what he wanted to do, and Judge challenged him to do it. Judge gave Ireland some pumpkin seeds, with the condition that Ireland donate a third of the money his business made back to Northwest Family Foods.

Ireland used three of his father’s six garden beds at home and baked in his mother’s kitchen, and he also had a little guidance from Judge as how to run his business. Ireland said he chose pumpkin pie after making it for the first time a couple of years ago, and loving the taste.

“We made a couple of pumpkin pies and I said, ‘Hmm, this is a good idea. I think I want to make a business out of this,’” Ireland said yesterday. “I really like baking,” he added.

“He’s always wanted to do business,” said Ireland’s mother, Gillian, in a joint interview.

Ireland plans to continue J&J Gardens with Hayes this year, and he said that he wants to continue running businesses, and doing other things, in the future. “I want to do a lot of stuff when I grow up,” Ireland said.


Endeavors like Ireland’s are what Judge is hoping for with his Seeds For Growth project. Made possible by Co-op store owner Steve Martin’s donation of more than 200 Page’s Seeds packets both last year and this year, Judge is asking anyone interested in growing produce and donating one third of it to the local food shelter to participate in Seeds For Growth.

“We are encouraging people to start their own agriculture business,” Judge said on Tuesday. “These seeds are meant to be starters.”

Judge added, “Our mission is to get the seeds, connect people with the seeds, and oversee the program.”

Judge, who is also a Spanish teach in Colchester, said he began the project out of a love for gardening, community growth, and food sustainability. “This is my passion,” he said. Judge added that he has a particular talent for growing potatoes, and expects to expand his own garden through the project.

“We [think] it’s a great idea,” said Martin yesterday. Martin pointed to Judge as the main organizer of the project, the person who brought the Co-op, Page’s seeds, and the food shelf together.

When asked if he expected to continue making the seed donations in future years, Martin said, “I don’t see why not.”

Those wanting to take part in Seeds For Growth can receive up to five packets of Page’s Seeds, which are now available at Northwest Family Foods on 5 Lemnah Drive. The seeds are being given out on a first-come, first-served basis, and are available Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m. Contact Sherry Dudley at 527-7392 ext. 106 with questions.