Ruth Moore, Heritage Farm
Middlebourne, West Virginia

Ruth Moore is a busy woman, no, an amazing woman. She is a farmer who raises black angus beef cattle and grows cut flowers to sell fresh and dried. She is a history buff and president of the Tyler County Museum where she’s involved with the writing of a book about the history of the county. She is grandmother of 8 and at age 78, great-grandmother to an energetic 2-year-old. Asked how she does it all, she chuckles and says, “Well, I was up at 2:00 this morning.” Simply amazing.
    
You see, in the early ‘90s, cattle prices were so low Ruth and her husband, Glenn, started thinking about what else they could do. Ruth said, “We’ve got the land and the tractors, why don’t we try doing flowers?” They started out with ornamental corn and okra; grasses and grains that Ruth still loves to grow. She doesn’t particularly like to sell flowers that can’t be dried. She makes rounds to area florists with stems in 5-gallon buckets, usually separated by color. What she doesn’t sell, she can dry. Dried stems and arrangements make up the bulk of her sales peddled at shows. She’s been juried in at Tamarac, Cedar Lakes, and Jackson Mills, just to name a few. At some shows it can be quite competitive to get juried in. Vendors line up for the chance to display their wares to the show’s “jury” and hope they will see it as valuable goods that will enhance the atmosphere of the show.
    
She grows celosia, lavender, zinnias, globe amaranth and sunflowers. She saves seed and produces a “mixture of neat colors and forms” from the open cross pollination. She’s also got pussy willow, old man’s walking cane, curly willow and oh, she just loves poppies. Of course the pod provides as much dried interest as the delicate petals.
    
Ruth has participated in the ASCFG National Cut Flower Trials for almost as long as they’ve been in existence, reporting “This year burgundy foxglove was a standout.” She loves to try new plants and bases their continued use on sales. She’s going to try some tuberose this year. When we talked in early December, they had just arrived. As the holidays approached she and her granddaughter were busy with live greenery—wreaths, swags and garland (garland takes too much time). She had also just finished decorating her Victorian-style tree with lace and what else but dried flowers. Last year, Historic Williamsburg also decorated with dried flowers—all the red cockscomb Ruth had available.
    
Heritage Farm borders a creek, so she has bottomland and hillsides (used primarily for pasture) in Middlebourne, West Virginia. As for modifying the soil, lime seems to be her amendment of choice, and of course the cows contribute as well. Weed suppression involves covering the aisles with straw or sometimes putting paper under the straw, but those weeds that make it through the barriers meet the wrath of Ruth’s hoe. She does get help around the farm from a young man who used to work for her husband, who passed away in 1995.
    
Ruth loves attending the ASCFG Conferences, estimating that she’s been to 10 or 11 and she always attends the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meetings. She views them as a treat for her hard work and every year she returns with at least one good idea to implement at Heritage Farm. This year she’s excited about weed-free lilies grown in carts filled with soil.  At the 2000 National Conference in Austin she saw a tiller that would make high-rise rows. She came home and had one made; it has saved her lots of time and improved her beds.
    
When Ruth started drying flower and looking for buyers, she contacted a man in New York State. With nearly 500 bunches, she thought she had a lot to offer, but this man was a wholesaler and rather surprised her by saying, “That wouldn’t do me for one day.” They got along well, and she visited his operation (and other historical landmarks) in New York. When he asked what drying method she was using, she told him hanging and silica gel. He promptly suggested she give up silica gel in favor of dehumidifiers. He explained that he had once used silica, a product that is essentially ground glass. Breathing glass dust was an unnecessary health hazard he had experienced and warned against.
    
When Ruth returned to West Virginia, she found several used dehumidifiers for sale in the newspaper.  Today, she has one in every room that she uses to hang flowers (she screen dries some also). Each one has a hose that carries the accumulated water outside so she doesn’t have to worry about emptying the collection bins. She uses farm buildings—a large barn, an old corn crib and a summer kitchen—to hang dry her flowers.
    
As we talked she repeatedly chided me (in a way that reminded me of my own grandmother), “You just need to come.”  I’m thinking of scheduling a weekend get-away next October. That’s when the farm is opened for a Pickin’, an open house of sorts, that lets folks pick their own before the first frost. Though lots of folks buy dried arrangements Ruth’s already made, she encourages them to dry their own and find out for themselves nature’s extended beauty, a goal Ruth herself has achieved


Author’s Postscript:
    
Barely a week after I spoke with Mrs. Moore, I received a large box of dried flowers from her. I was overwhelmed by the number and beauty of the flowers she had sent me. Bunches of colorful celosia, gomphrena, statice and even some dried peppers filled the box. Added to that, white and yellow fine-textured fillers gave me quite a palette to play with in my rather amateur flower-arranging efforts. Of course, I think my creations are lovely, but perhaps just as important, the creative process was fun and rewarding. Thank you, Mrs. Moore, for sharing your love of dried flowers and creative inspiration.