Here is the latest blog post we wrote for Field to Vase.
How Do You Start Something? You Start It.
by Heidi Joynt of Field & Florist
So, you want to start a flower farm. I get it, so did we. As the slow flower movement picks up speed a host of eager emailers enter our inbox every week wanting to learn more about flower farming and design. The number and depth of these messages surprises us, because—although we’ve been fortunate to have success with our operation—we’re a very young farm compared to other bigger (sometimes multi-generational) growers. I can’t imagine how many requests they receive. I’m mentioning all of this not to sound like a crank that hates correspondence—we’re flattered and honored to be a part of this field-to-vase movement and the community that surrounds it. I mention it as a way to cut quickly to our most valuable advice: How do you start something? You just start it.
Reading books and blogs can only get you so far. While research and relationships with other farmers are invaluable, nothing will teach you as much as the work itself. The truth is that as a beginner, you don’t even know what information you really need until you’re in the middle of troubleshooting a problem. Start small and accept that your garden will not be ideal in the first year and you have to start somewhere. Some crops will fail and you will waste some money. You will also have unimaginable surprises and successes that will teach you a great deal and keep you going. Nothing about farming can be learned overnight. The beauty of the process is that it’s so highly specific to things like region, soil quality, drainage, and topography. It’s kind of like being married to the land. The way you learn about it is by spending more time with it, paying attention to it, and becoming more in tune with it. Even then, it will change! The most seasoned farmers will tell you, you’ll always be in the process of becoming a better grower.
From the outside, flower farming seems glamorous if you don’t have experience working in agriculture. Stuffing your car with flowers you grew, pumping up the Genesis jams while you whisk away on a day of deliveries, doing a slow fist pump while stuffing a sandwich in your face. Who doesn’t want that life? But in all honesty, it’s not always what the Instagram posts, Pinterest pins, and blog musings would lead you to believe—unless, of course, you read farmer blogs about things like best practices for using rubber bands to keep your pants rolled up in wet grass, or how you can be so exhausted that you nearly fall asleep during dinner, or find yourself frequently lusting after walk-behind tillers. My point is that farmers are a weird and intense breed, so it’s better to start small with lower stakes while you figure out if you’re really passionate about the work. Unless you’re independently wealthy or have some other source of income, that passion is sometimes the only thing that will sustain you. Even with nearly 10 years of experience as growers (5 years in vegetables and 3 years in flowers), I feel like we are just barely on the brink of figuring out how to thrive efficiently on the farm with our lean two person operation. Reaching out to other growers and designers who have more experience is a natural thing to do. What is important in the equation is that those growers/designers be compensated for their hard earned knowledge and the years of lessons they have learned on the job. While the workshops being given by many farmer florists may seem prohibitively expensive, they are worth every single penny. You might have to save money to attend one, but it will definitely be worth it. Insight from their experience is not (and should not be) free.
We look to those who have been growing and designing for much longer than we have and marvel at their knowledge and endurance. We pay to be a part of professional organizations such as ASCFG(Association of Specialty Cut Flowers) and enjoy the benefits by accessing the online forum, attending their conferences, and getting connected with other growers. We have a short list of growers and designers whose workshops we are determined to attend one day in order to expand our skills and knowledge. Until we are able to do that however, we will keep learning on the job.