What began as a hobby and passion for flowers for Craig and Kathy Canoyer blossomed into a multi-location, family-run business known as Canoyer Garden Center. The Canoyers’ ability to successfully grow their business through a customer satisfaction-driven attitude has earned them Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRIA) Entrepreneur Award.

Polk County Farm Bureau President Brad Moeckly says the Canoyer Garden Center is a case of a family finding a niche and making it work. “When we think of farming, we often think of corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle,” he says. “But this is a prime example of diversity in agriculture, and we need all those parts to make the wheel turn.”

The Canoyers’ business first took root in 1986 as a 200-square foot greenhouse on their family farm in Cass County where they raised grain and cattle. Despite being nine miles from the closest town, neighbors and community members began stopping by to buy the Canoyers’ extra flowers, and soon Craig and Kathy unexpectedly found themselves in the plant business.

With an increasing customer base, the Canoyers continued to build their operation, first with a greenhouse in Griswold, Iowa and a second in Papillion, Neb. run by their son, Brad. The Canoyers wanted to bring a garden center to the Des Moines market and upon seeing a space on Highway 141 in Grimes, they agreed it was the perfect spot for a 25,000 square-foot greenhouse. It opened in 2014 and is managed by another son, Kyle Canoyer.

 “I wish I could tell you that I recruited Canoyer Garden Center to Grimes, but I didn’t,” said Grimes Chamber of Commerce President Brian Buethe. “They found us, and I’m so glad that they did.”

Between their three garden centers, the Canoyers employ 80 people, and will soon open a fourth location next spring in Ankeny. With the success of their business, the Canoyers no longer raise row crops and livestock but have found raising plants indoors comes with its own set of challenges. “My dad calls this ‘indoor farming,’ and we are just as affected by weather as farmers are,” said Canoyer. With the glass structure of greenhouses, hail can be a concern and high winds can damage trees and shrubs grown outside. However, a sunny day provides favorable conditions for both plants and customer traffic.

Although well-known for their geraniums and poinsettias, Kyle Canoyer says the “farm fresh” style of planting with vegetables and fruits being grown in container pots on patios is picking up in popularity. No matter how large or small the landscape project, the Canoyers take pride in helping visitors find the right plant for their home and lifestyle.

RRIA is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. The RRIA program is based on the five pillars of Education, Mentoring, Connecting, Recognition, and Financing.  For more information about RRIA and the RRIA Pathways, a searchable technology that connects entrepreneurs with resources, visit http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI/.