Sally Coverdell knew her husband, Ken, was going to be named 2004 Farmer of the Year, but she didn’t breathe a word about it for at least six months. “She kept the secret well,” say Ken Coverdell of Blue Sky Designs Inc. In Half Moon Bay. Awarded annually by the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce & Visitors’ Bureau, Farmer of the Year recognizes the accomplishments of someone who has demonstrated sound business practices, is actively involved in the continuation of farming on the coastline, is strongly involved in the community, is an agricultural innovator and believes in the nurturing and education of future farmers.
Ken Coverdell, a life member of the CLCA (California Landscape Contractors Association), fits that description to a T. “I felt tremendously honored,” he says. “But the most important thing people should know is that I really have always tried to hire people who are better than I am at planting, irrigation, masonry or design, drawing plans and estimating costs. I can’t take credit for all the beautiful work we’ve done. I have an amazing team. They really deserve the credit.”
That said, in addition to its design/build work on custom residential landscapes, Blue Sky Designs does its share of working the land. “Sally and I have close to three acres and about 30,000 square feet of greenhouses,” Coverdell says. “About 70 percent of what we put on jobs comes from our property. We like good quality plants to use on our projects, and Sally is brilliant at horticulture.” Blue Sky grows one-gallon perennials, ornamental trees, five-gallon shrubs and other plants hard to hunt down from wholesalers. “The reason I got involved in landscaping is that I just love plants and horticulture,” Coverdell says frankly. “But Sally really runs the nursery.” She is pioneering our way into sustainability with California native plant species, is a poultry expert, a bee keeper, a grower and propagator of the nursery crops.
Blue Sky Designs is a family operation. Son Robert is 26 and a graduate of UC Davis. Son, K.C., 24, and daughter, Jeanne, 22 attend Chico State. K.C. loves to cook and Jeanne is special event planner / coordinator. The Coverdells are involved in school and community activities. The Farmer of the Year award recognized Ken Coverdell’s at high school career day, his helping hand with homecoming class projects and musicals, and one of his favorite pastimes being the voice of the local football team at home games. Blue Sky Designs also has sponsored soccer, T-ball and Little League teams, among others.
On the Coastside County Water Board since 1992, Coverdell, a current member of BAWSCA (Bay Area Water Service and Conservation Authority) and the CLCA (California Landscape Contractors Association), having served as the co-chair of the Chapter Presidents Council and as the treasurer, vice president, president and chairman of the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of CLCA. In honor of his award, Coverdell received resolutions from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Half Moon Bay Mayor Mike Ferreira, State Senators Jackie Speir and Byron Sher, and Assembly member Gene Mullin.
The recognition closest to Coverdell’s heart, however, wasn’t from a legislator. It was from his mother. “When my father, Don Coverdell, was 52, the age that I am, he ran a retail operation in Syracuse, N.Y., and they picked him Businessman of the Year. My mother, Dorothy Coverdell, was down for a visit and sitting beside me when it was announced that I had won the award,” Coverdell says. “She was pretty tickled.”
SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2004 ......Farmer of the Year...... CALIFORNIA LANDSCAPING