Meet the Merchant: Chad Gilliland

Posted on 05/12/2018
Chad Gilliland, owner/operator of Next to Nature FarmLife on a small family farm is never dull. From raising rambunctious goats and chickens to maintaining a fruit tree orchard and beehives, something always needs attention.

Say hello to Chad Gilliland, resourceful outdoorsman and owner of Next to Nature Farm, which sells fantastic honey, beeswax skin care products, beeswax candles, jams and jellies, farm-fresh eggs, seasonal fresh fruit and more.

Last year, Gilliland took a bold step and quit his day job of 18 years to expand his Leavenworth hobby farm as a full-time business. (No biggie, right?) He opened his first storefront in the Lenexa Public Market after testing the waters as a day cart merchant. This spring, Gilliland also became a vendor at the Lenexa Farmers Market.

Read on to learn more about the vision for Next to Nature Farm.

Q. Describe your business concept for the market. 
A. Our business concept is to offer an all-natural approach to what we produce, grow and bring to the Public Market. We are committed to offering all of our products in their most natural form.

Q. How’d you come up with the idea?  
A. This concept is highly sought after by my customers and underused by farm-based businesses.

Q. What’s your name and title/role?  
A. Chad Gilliland, owner/operator.

Q. But what do you really do? 
A. As an owner/operator, I am involved in all aspects of the business: beekeeper, produce and fruit grower, farmer, product maker, salesman, accountant, husband, father of three, and deacon at my church.

Q. What excites you about the Lenexa Public Market?  
A. I love the concept of a year-round indoor market that combines a wonderful eating experience with small businesses that create and offer handmade quality products. 

Q. What makes your business unique?  
A. Our pesticide-free approach to beekeeping, growing product and maintaining a fruit orchard is unique. A step further, we use no antibiotics or growth hormones with our laying flock of chickens and our meat goats. In addition, our beeswax skin care products and handmade soaps are all natural with no preservatives, dyes or colorants.

Q. What is one thing you hope customers say after they leave your restaurant/shop?  
A. We look forward to educating our customers about the plight of the honeybee and open their eyes to the many products that can be produced from the beehive. I hope customers feel enlightened and leave with a newfound respect for the importance of pollinating insects like the honeybee.

Q. What made you get into this business? 
A. It started as a hobby. We added two beehives to improve harvest on our fruit orchard. Over the last five years, it has become an addiction to a homesteading lifestyle, working to bring high-quality, handmade products to our customers daily.

Q. What is the biggest challenge for you in opening a market stall?
A. The biggest challenge so far is having our market stall open six days a week and allowing enough time to continue working the farm and all the activities that go with a farm-based business.

Q. Why should people support local businesses?  
A. Supporting small local businesses is key to a healthy community. It is proven that your dollars spent with a small local business stay local and continue to support a growing local economy. Small businesses that produce small batches of product at any given time ensures freshness and a commitment by the owner to know their customers and the trends in the local market.  

Q. What’s the coolest thing you’re working on?
A. I am currently working on plans to open a storefront on a farm setting that offers family an opportunity to visit an unconventional farm and experience honeybees and other pollinating insects. It is based on an old general store theme that brings together folks in the community that are looking for a fun, educational, outdoor experience that the whole family can enjoy.

Q. Favorite lunch spot?
A. Anything sushi!! Who would have thought this about me? Years ago growing up, seafood was the furthest thing from my mind. But my wife has broadened by food experiences over the years.

Q. Where might someone find you if you weren’t at work?  
A. Since making our farm a full-time business, that is where you will find me seven days a week currently. I am an avid outdoorsman and love to hunt and fish. Love to spend time outdoors doing anything that allows me quality time with my kids.