Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia
I started Love ‘n Fresh Flowers unofficially in 2008 as a tiny market garden that sold flowers at one farmers’ market, and officially in 2009 as the humble beginning of the thriving “farmer florist” operation it is today. At that time, I really didn’t know anyone doing what I was really keen to do, at least not in such a focused, full-on, local-only “farmer florist” way. That term didn’t even exist then! Most farmers I talked to scoffed at me for wanting to tackle weddings (and the stress), and I heard many cautionary tales about Bridezilla.
I was told I should just stick with farmers’ markets and get into grocery stores and restaurants. One farmer friend had tried tackling weddings and said if I was going to do weddings, just keep ‘em real simple.
At the same time, most florists I talked to also scoffed at me for wanting to use only locally-grown flowers I grew myself for wedding work. I got many finger wags accompanied by “No bride is ever going to let you have that much control. They’re all so demanding and controlling. You have to give them what they want.” More references to Bridezilla, obviously.
Fast forward to today and hundreds of weddings later, all featuring flowers grown at my farm for amazing, trusting couples, and I haven’t met Bridezilla once yet. Seriously, not once! Turns out if you work hard at educating clients and establishing a relationship of collaboration and trust, they’ll let you grow all kinds of crazy beautiful stuff for them and never flinch at the thought of foregoing stiff roses and baby’s breath. I can’t say enough about how much I love my clients!
And alongside the rapid growth and success of Love ‘n Fresh—perhaps in part inspired by our example—the floral industry has changed and become not only open to the idea of a “farmer florist”, but completely smitten with it. This rather speedy evolution in the approach to floral design is no doubt a fine example of the power of social media to connect the customer directly with the producer. Social media is all well and good, but still a bit of a flash in the pan. Recently the gold standard of publications, Martha Stewart Weddings (Spring 2015 issue) published a list of The Top 62 Floral Designers in the nation, and six farmer florists were on that list (including Love ‘n Fresh)!!!I don’t know about you, but I consider that news worth shouting about as an Association! This kind of mainstream recognition means locally-grown flowers and a truly “seasonal” approach to floral design are not just a quirky fad, but a movement that is making a big impact across the national floral industry. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.” and proof that sometimes it’s good to break the mold!
But like I said during my demo at the Growers’ Intensive in Athens, if you are getting into the more formal floral design side of things with your flower operation, it is important to learn the rules (of good design technique) before you break them. I’ve broken a lot of “the rules” as I’ve grown my business, but not before I spent two years taking formal floral design classes to learn the standards and the techniques. If you are a new farmer florist, make sure you take some design classes and don’t just “wing it”. Now that we, as a collective group/movement, have the attention of national press, we need to do each other proud and work together to make sure our flowers and designs are top notch.
It is also important as we grow as a niche in this industry that we respect the standards in pricing in each of our respective markets. Do not give in to the age-old assumption by customers that farm flowers are “cheap”. First, you are going to be doing a lot more work as a farmer florist for that bride-to-be than most traditional florists since you will be spending months growing the flowers in addition to all the customer service and design time all weddings require. Secondly, you do not want to unfairly undercut other designers in your area.
You may be tempted to price low just to get the jobs to build your portfolio. But trust me when I say, that will really hurt you in the long run. You will get known for being cheap (most wedding business is by word-of-mouth) and you will start a downward spiral for all the wedding florists in your area so that no one can charge fairly for their time. It’s like two gas stations on opposite corners of a busy intersection: if one lowers its price per gallon by a penny, then the other does too to stay competitive. It initially seems harmless but then that cycle repeats over and over until neither station is making a profit. Instead, do some research and find out what’s fair pricing for your area and compete on an even playing field. When you do, that buoys all of us up across the industry.