By Phyl Newbeck
Every Mothers’ Day weekend for the last 12 years, Britney Sue Aube has been a fixture at Baptist Corners, selling hanging baskets from a wagon for her namesake business: BritSue’s Greenhouse. Aube has worked with plants and flowers her entire life. “I started at Gecewicz Farm and Greenhouse when I was still in diapers,” she said. “My father worked for Trudy and Gus and he brought us along. We plucked geraniums and made potting soil.”
In 2008, Aube and her family opened BritSue’s Greenhouse on Jackson Hill Road in East Charlotte. “Trudy was ready to close up shop,” Aube recalls “and I was ready to go to college. I was the first in the family to go and we started the greenhouse to help pay for it.” Aube graduated from Champlain College with a bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and hopes to pursue a job that combines her two interests. “I want to marry love for the land in Vermont with my legal studies,” she said.
Aube has worked for the Charlotte Planning and Zoning Department and for a civil engineering firm doing land use permitting. She is currently the Zoning Administrator in Shelburne. “I’m not really loving it,” she admitted. “It’s a thankless position and there is a lot of tension but I’m learning so much. I do all the certificate of occupancy inspections and I attend weekly meetings for the big development on the golf course so I’m learning about construction techniques and town infrastructure.”
Aube appreciates the opportunity to work in the land-use field but she isn’t ready to give up her time at the greenhouse. “It’s primarily a family operation,” she said. “It’s me, my sister, my father and my mother.” The greenhouse opens every year on Mother’s Day weekend and closes on July 1 when they usually hold a half-price plant sale. This year, they are skipping the sale in favor of giving the leftover plant starters to people who want to take part in the Grow an Extra Row project to raise produce for the Food Shelf.
Aube isn’t sure what her next step will be in her quest to combine her two interests, but she’s hoping they will intersect at Vermont Law School. “I’d love to be part of writing laws and regulations for farming and the green movement in Vermont,” she said. “I love Vermont, I love farming, and I love the environment. I see myself writing policy. I’ve worked with Act 250 and the state’s stormwater program, so I feel like I’m putting tools in my tool box.”
In the meantime, Aube enjoys her time at the greenhouse. “It’s so gratifying when you grow something,” she said. “You put in the work and get to see the results of your efforts.” Aube also likes the human interaction the greenhouse work brings. “My family has been in Charlotte for many generations,” she said “and the greenhouse allows me to meet community members.”
Aube and the rest of the Tenney family do a lot together. “We are big fishermen,” Aube said. “The entire family fishes—ice fishing and from a boat—and we’re pretty good at it.” Aube got her husband into the sport, and the two of them enjoy it so much that they were out on Lake Champlain when the temperature was -26 degrees. “Fishing is one of the few activities that has been doable recently because it has social distancing,” she said.
The greenhouse interaction that Aube enjoys has been limited because of the pandemic, which also forced the family businesses to shut down for three weeks. “We only allow five people at a time and we do business through the window,” Aube said. “We don’t get to interact the same way, but this has been our biggest selling year since people are staying home and trying to grow their own food.” Aube noted that community members are supporting the family in other ways. “When we opened, people just poured in to support us,” she said. “They were dropping bottles off at the redemption center but not taking any money.”
Aube believes the greenhouse will always be part of her life, and the next generation is already getting involved. Her one-year-old son, Finn, has been greeting visitors to the greenhouse from his stroller. Next year, he may be joining his mother with her wagon and soon he, too, may be a fixture on Baptist Corners.