Field to Vase - The Farmer Florist Conundrum

A while back Heidi wrote this piece for Field to Vase, where she'll be contributing regularly to an online resource with the goal of bringing like-minded people in the local flower movement together to share their expertise. 

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography

The Farmer Florist Conundrum
by Heidi Joynt of Field & Florist

I am convinced there are two distinctly different parts of our brain that are exercised during farming and floral design. As someone who is striving to be a successful grower and designer, I really didn’t anticipate how incredibly different these two activities could be.

Something strange happens to your sensibilities when you spend hours each day, all season, on the task of setting up and managing a flower farm.  The brute activities of bending metal poles for stakes, hauling heavy rolls of landscape fabric, and rock picking so that you can sow seed into something that resembles soil are par for the course. You start to walk differently, like something is permanently wrong with your back, or like it is just too much effort to appear feminine…whatever that even means.

Making the switch from this type of work to the thoughtful work of designing can be a tricky one. That transition from thinking about a crop in bulk, handling it by the bucket full, and then pulling out a single stem to decide which way it will be situated in a vase.

When you’re working by yourself, or part of a lean team – as most of us are, every action is assessed. How much energy are we willing to expend for the tasks of the day, and what must fall to the bottom of the list if we run out of time? Very quickly, efficiency takes over and slowly the poetry and unimaginable beauty of design work can start to slowly get squeezed out of the process.  Of course, this is not the desired goal.

This is how we get accustomed to thinking about every move on the flower farm. How will all of the tasks get done today given our limited resources of time and labor? Determined to work smarter not harder, I let that part of my brain have free reign.  One day I knew however, that it had gone too far when upon entering the grocery store I hatched a thoroughly detailed plan with my husband about who was going to get which items in the grocery store using the shortest route of least resistance…and I’ll meet you at the register in 5 minutes.

This is not to say beauty is not noticed; there are some days when we walk the field in the morning with a camera before hauling anything out. Or find it incredibly necessary to drop everything when the perfect bloom is noticed and run it over to Molly, my business partner, to exclaim 3 or 4 times in 10 minutes, “How amazing this one is!” Taking those moments whenever they happen and living in them, I believe, is teaching us about design.

Noticing the natural lean of a flower and letting it be designed with that way, not tossing out the twisted or oddly shaped blooms but celebrating their uniqueness in the design. This is the luxury of the farmer/florist: the flexibility to use flowers in their many stages and forms, depending on what the design calls for.  The ability to work with a client and plant just the right shade of dahlia for their event, and experience the satisfaction of seeing it all come together from field to vase.