I am so excited to be your new Mid-Atlantic Regional Director! Andrea Gagnon has done such an amazing job and shared her talents generously. I (sadly) missed the epic Regional Meeting she pulled together at Longwood Gardens in 2010, but hope to be able to offer at least half as much in leadership and sharing during my term!
I am in a huge transitional stage on my farm and feel like after 9 years I finally have figured out what I want this little flower business to be. I’ve sold wholesale, ran a little flower stand in town for a few seasons, designed for weddings, sold at our local farmers’ market, and this past season I started shipping bouquets. I’ve wrestled with how to run a lucrative and rewarding flower business while still being able to be a full-time mom to my four wonderful kids. When I started growing, my oldest son was four and my daughter was two. Now he’s closing in on fourteen, she’s eleven, and my younger two are five and three.
Feeling like I’ve tried it all, I made some changes for this year, to get back to actually doing what I love. Maybe it was the excessively ridiculous heat this summer, or telling my kids “not right now” for the hundredth time, but an “ah-ha” moment (along with my entire family’s desire to move back to the oceanfront area of the beach) pushed me to redirect my business to focus on the things I love about it and let go of those I don’t love, but felt were necessary.
So, what DON’T I love? I don’t love growing huge quantities of crops and sending them out the door without getting to play with them. Initially, I got a huge amount of satisfaction from the production end of things…from seeing buckets and buckets full of beautiful blooms that I actually grew! But, like a new relationship with the wrong person, the magic wore off quickly when it wasn’t a good match with everything else in my life. I have always been a closet artist of some form, always choosing art class as my elective through junior high and high school and graphic design after that. Whether it was watercolor painting or web design, I’ve always been thrilled by the possibilities of a blank slate.
When we bought this farm, my immediate plan was: double production and sell tons of flowers. I thought bigger was better and in the process, slowly phased out most of our bouquet making (how did I miss that our bouquets were our local niche?) and any floral design work, for lack of time and manpower. I worked seven days each week, hustling the bunches out the door. No time to even consider the slate, much less fill it with creativity. In the five years since then, I’ve watched my kids grow, and struggled each year with finding a balance between high production, low burnout, and actually having a life.
What DO I love? I love designing. Anything. But, I especially love designing with flowers. In the last two years, it would get down to the dog days of August and I would be just too tired after working in the sometimes 100-degree heat all week to make bouquets all day Friday for our Saturday market. I would inevitably decide to just take the flowers as-is and make some bouquets at market. Of course, the flowers would move slower and my “ah-ha” moment came when a regular market customer commented that, “It’s not just your flowers people love, it’s your bouquets”.
So, after several years of feeling like I should fill all these fields with flowers just because – well, it’s a flower farm and that’s how it should be – I have realized that bigger is not better in my case. I am downsizing my farm and adding back varieties I had grown in the past because I loved them, but had stopped growing because they required a little extra care that I didn’t have time to give. Our English roses have struggled for the last few years, as I did not give them as much love and care as they need to grow organically in our climate. We are now adding 10 new varieties of David Austin’s, and all of our dahlias will be shaded next year and given the TLC they need to flourish in our zone 8 heat.
Weddings will be the focus of our new business, Roost Flowers & Designs, which is now being promoted as a flower farm AND floral design firm. Our farm is being moved to a 1/4 acre plot on an organic vegetable farm that is 25 minutes closer to “the city” than where I am now. Workshops and even an occasional dinner will be held in the gardens, which will also contain chickens, ducks and if I can find them, a few goats to “edge” the perimeter and give me the feeling that I’m still actually a farmer.
I will be shipping bouquets through our online shop and have created an online “CSA” that will resume in the spring.
Once I started shifting my focus toward doing what I truly love, everything has just starting flowing easily in the direction I want to go. It is amazing to me how easy things are when you let go of all the “shoulds” and “supposed tos” and follow your heart. Going into this new year, I leave you with the amaranthine wisdom of Dr. Suess, “Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”