How I Became A Flower Farmer
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
What started out as a dream for our family, turned into a business that we never saw coming. We had been talking about how we wanted to spend our family time and what values and memories we wanted to give our kids. After a small spring break retreat at my sister and brother-in-law's rural home, it was clear to us what they had created was exactly what we wanted for our family.
We wanted to buy acreage close to the city where we could spend weekends unplugging from the world and reconnecting with one another. We would have a bee farm, an orchard, a berry patch, a garden and chickens. There would be fishing, hiking, four-wheeling and lazy afternoons basking in the sun. And most importantly, family time would trump everything.
As we dreamed and drafted this new plan, I decided one of the things I really wanted to incorporate was a cut flower garden. I knew nothing about cut flowers at the time... what to grow or how to go about it. I began reading everything I could get my hands on and, in the process, I stumbled onto a blog by Erin Benzakein which opened up the hidden world of small cut flower farming. After reading the stories from these farmers, I thought I could follow suit and sell a few bunches here and there to pay for my hobby but the more I planned and researched, the bigger my little flower garden grew.
I tilled up our entire backyard and filled it with little seedlings that I had started in my basement. I rented a booth at our local farmer's market and made big plans to sell all the bouquets I could grow. However, to my great disappointment, I lost all my tulips to the voles and deer, my sunflowers to the groundhog living under the neighbor's deck, and most everything else to the shady forest canopy and the thick clay soil that suffocated all signs of life. I managed to yield less than five bouquets a week that year.
I decided that I would have to find better land and more of it if I wanted to make this little business venture work. I began combing the county property map, looking for plots of farm ground and making phone calls. And then, a sweet family called me back with a "yes" to the perfect location. It was close to our home, within walking distance to the farmers' market and, best of all, situated alongside a creek. I immediately got to work tilling and amending the soil, and planted 1000 tulips. Things looked so promising.
The following spring, the flood waters came and washed away nearly every last hope I had for my cut flower farm. After the water receded, I picked myself back up and started again with 1000 lilies and ranunculus. Almost as soon as I had gotten them in the ground, the flooding returned and I was forced to wade out in water up to my shins to scoop everything out of the mud and muck and bring them home. Once again, I was in the backyard trying to salvage everything I could from what seemed like another terrible growing year. Our deck was full of about 2000 seedlings that I was frantically bumping up into larger containers to buy time while I figured out my next move.
And then some good luck came our way, our neighbor stopped by and offered to make an inquiry about some land she knew about. It belonged to her parents and was previously used for cattle, but was currently sitting empty. After receiving another gracious "yes" I immediately got to work tilling and amending the soil to make a home for those 2000 seedlings, patiently waiting. I held my breath while those babies grew all summer long until finally I had enough to take to market. I sold out in record time each weekend until the first frost arrived and the market closed for the year.
It was a rocky start, to say the least, but has been an incredible ride so far. Were still farming on that borrowed land, so the chickens and berry patch and four-wheeling will have to wait. But the kids are learning so much about hard work and perseverance and family time does indeed trump everything.