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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Located in the Bay Area, CA, we're a family-owned garden center offering unusual and hard-to-find plants & gifts. Established 1946.

Life is Beautiful Blog

Employee Spotlight: Randall Barnes

Blaire Benson

Hi, Everyone. I’m Randall Barnes, the bedding department manager at Orchard and I have been working here since April 2003.

What is your favorite part about working at Orchard?

I’m very fortunate to work and live in the same community. One of my favorite parts of working at Orchard is that each day I learn many new things; all I’ve learned has inspired me to do research with vegetables and herbs in order to develop recipes. I love experimenting in the kitchen to see the many different ways one can cook a single vegetable and pair with wine. Another favorite part of my job here at Orchard is that none of my work clothes require any dry cleaning!

What are some of your favorite memories in your time working here?

Some of my favorite memories at Orchard are the morning discussions I have with the people in my department. We share our experiences growing and cooking vegetables and then coming together at the table and enjoying a true “garden to table” meal. It has become a seasonal tradition.

What are some upcoming projects you are excited about?

A few projects I am excited about include helping to develop informational parts of our social media, continuing to design and build display structures, and developing informational cooking demo classes that will include cooking, along with discussions about growing the plants used.

What is your favorite season?

My favorite season is fall. At work, the transition from summer to fall is a fun one, with our Fall Fest running the whole month of October. Plus, it is my favorite time of year to travel and experience other culture’s celebrations of the harvest of food and wine. My favorite places to visit are Italy, Spain, France and Cornwall, England. My aunt and uncle live in Cornwall, and while I visit we go to the Farmer’s Harvest Dinner and celebrate what fields have given us. If you travel to the southern hemisphere you can experience a second spring in the same year. Western Australia is amazing with all of their wild flowers, and in the southwest is a region called Margaret River that is like the Napa Valley of Australia. The harvest season there is worth the trip alone. Last fall I went to Mexico City and Puebla. Experiencing the celebration of The Day of the Dead and doing research on peppers were just a couple of fun things I did while visiting.

What is your favorite flower to work with?

My favorite flower is the rose. I have a rose garden of about sixty rose plants that I designed to remind me of an amazing rose garden outside of Paris I visited many years ago and will never forget. The antique rose collection was phenomenal and since I’m a history buff, it had an enormous influence on me that lasts even to this day. 

 Randall's Rose Garden

Randall's Rose Garden

What is your favorite vegetable to grow and cook with and why?

Wow, that’s a very hard question for me to answer. I’ll have to break it down between the warm and cool seasons. My favorite warm season vegetable is the tomato. I do so much with them all year. I make sauces, dehydrate them, can them, and love to make a fresh classic brusccheta or Caprese salad with different colored tomatoes. No matter their form, I always enjoy the amazing flavors.  For the cool season, there is a tie between kale and Brussels sprouts. My favorite way to cook kale is by making a pesto with different types of kale. It is easy to freeze that way. The difference in flavors is amazing and it’s so easy to make a comforting pasta dish on cold night. I love roasting Brussels sprouts whole to a dark crispy texture with a soft center. I do favor the cool season vegetables because they are so nutrient packed. I’ll freeze enough kale pesto to have for several months.

What is something that people might not know about you?

People may not know that vegetables aren’t all I know about. During high school, I had a small landscape maintenance business and worked at my local nursery on the weekends. Then I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, graduating with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture with a concentration in Landscape Design. After that I attended Cornell University and received a Masters in Landscape Architecture. I was fortunate to have summer jobs during college at the Smithsonian Institution Office of Horticulture in Washington D.C. and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The motto “learn by doing” from Cal Poly has followed me to this day. An education is something that no one can ever take away from you and I love sharing my knowledge with customers and co-workers.