Serenity is the word that comes to mind and the feeling that envelops me when I visit John Fournelle in his garden. It is refreshing and restorative and fills me with joy.
Fournelle enjoys his Gros Ventre Gardens immensely and in many ways. His gardening started long ago. Growing up in Stillwater, Minnesota, near the Wisconsin border, he began gardening at 10. He started working at a nearby farm when he was 12 years old for $2 an hour. The farm grew acres of pick-your-own strawberries and raspberries, currants, pumpkins and retail flowers.
“It’s amazing I still like gardening,” Fournelle said. “I planted a thousand hanging baskets of flowers a year.”
After high school his course of higher education at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota was biology and botany. After college, he spent three winters near Salt Lake City working at Alta Ski Area. During the summers he returned to Minnesota for more farm work.
1991 brought change to Fournelle’s life. Shortly after his girlfriend, now wife, Jan Bauer, was recruited by St. John’s Medical Center to work as an obstetrics nurse, Fournelle moved here, too. He soon found work at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on the trail crew. His title there is now lift operations manager.
Gardening in Kelly surely has its challenges. When the famous Kelly Flood of the Gros Ventre River washed through Kelly a century ago, it washed most of the topsoil downstream, leaving behind a bunch of “Wyoming potatoes,” sometimes known as rocks.
Building a garden also takes lots of work. As Fournelle told me, he “moved in all of the dirt, old manure and compost bucket by bucket.
“We’d see a pile of dirt as we were driving and stop to ask if we could move it.”
The Fournelles’ gardens keep growing. A couple greenhouses extend the season and expand the space. The couple’s productivity has led them to create shares for other households, mostly for barter. For the last four years there has been enough product to take some coolers filled with nutritious abundance to the newly revitalized Slow Food Farm Stand.
Each Wednesday evening after working his day job, Fournelle, with the help of his dearly beloved, harvests, trims, washes, bags and labels his wares to share with local food lovers. This week, for the opening of the stand, there were bags of spring onions, Tyee spinach, red kittenspinach, Toscano kale, pink beauty radishes, and rainbow chard. Next week, baby bok choy will be ready to harvest. I long to see the tiny delicate turnips with tender greens. They are some of my favorites.
Fournelle’s love of growing endures. The eating brings total joy. “I like to bring the vegetables from the garden to dinner so fast they don’t even go in the refrigerator,” he said. “There is nothing better than the taste of grilled spring onions.”
For Fournelle, the age-old process of bartering and swapping is still pretty much in place. It has never been about the money. The summer garden income is rolled over in the autumn into a freezer filled with locally raised beef, poultry co-op healthy chickens and turkeys, plus a year’s supply of Alaska salmon caught by a fishing friend. It’s a well-balanced life.
Fournelle laughed as he described the price tag on a puffed out bag containing a handful of organic kale chips at the grocery store. He shared his recipe. Jan volunteered that her favorite meal is avocado toast with massaged kale, sliced radish and a fried egg. ￼