Floral Improv Boosts Our Spirits
Greetings from Maine and a soggy spring! We’re planting up a storm at this point, and our early spring crops in the tunnels are producing well. It’s always a challenge this time of year to stay on schedule with planting production while also harvesting, designing, and marketing. The stress of juggling all those facets combined with nearly daily rain events, and me falling woefully behind on client correspondence was really bringing me down. I was feeling burnt out and uninspired.
On my farm I often do most of the design work, and my team creates solid bunches and mixed bouquets for market, and occasionally helps replicate my designs for event work. Our bouquets for farmers’ markets are medium, and usually in the $8 to $20 price points. Our market is very competitive and there are bouquets that are much less expensive than ours, so we’ve been hovering at those levels for years.
Often around Mother’s Day I make a few fancier vases to inspire orders for bigger arrangements, and some extras to take to market on speculation. Last fall when I met with my harvest manager to debrief the season and plan for 2017, she told me she was interested in learning more design. Also, our spring bulbs were more productive than ever and we had more flowers than we could sell as straight bunches.
When we prepare our flowers for market we lay out our harvest on the tables, and the team bunches according to my “Hopes and Dreams” list. This is our volume goals based on sales that week in previous years, sales in previous weeks, and the weather report for the farmers’ market. This spring we’ve started a new tradition of a quick “Jam Session.” After we fulfill the Hopes and Dreams list, each of us on the team makes a vase out of whatever is inspiring us. We get to practice color combinations or show off that one really curvy poppy stem or a perfect branch or whatever we have that moves us. I guess that’s what feels so exciting to me: flowers are moving us.
We started this project to hone our design skills and empower each other to feel more comfortable working with our products, but here’s the thing: the arrangements have been selling. They are a bargain at $30 for the flowers, banded on site, or $40 to $50 including the vase, but I feel like we’re planting the seed of our customers valuing creative combinations more and more. Some customers are on their way to give the flowers as a gift and love the stand-alone nature of those arrangements, compared to a bouquet that will need fussing when they present it. Our displays are looking more enticing, too.
In mid-May I felt like my anemones and poppies were galloping so fast that I was moving into a glut. I posted an invitation on Instagram for folks to join me in a “Floral Jam Session.” I mostly just wanted to have some unstructured fun with flowers in the studio and sell some of these stems, so I priced the workshop at $50 and gathered some vases I was looking to cull from my collection. I gathered some textures from the fields and pulled out the magical spring blooms. Four people came to the first Jam Session, but many were interested and say they want to come to the next one. I didn’t get rich on that one, but I do think I cashed in on some of my overflow, and it was an easy workshop to prep for.
My intention was for this to be fun for someone at any experience level, but all four people who showed up were floral professionals. They loved the product they were working with and many will order from me for their events. One of them bought a bucket of flowers from my cooler to take back to her shop. Another took photos of which colors of tulips and ranunculus she wanted for her order two weeks later. I think open studios are a good way to connect with event designers in our area to show them some of our product they are not used to working with, especially greens. This helps them think of me and my flowers when they need something extra special.
Neither of these ideas are new ideas, of course, but spring production is feeling a bit more gratifying this year because we have built some fun into our market prep routine, and people seem to be appreciating our whimsy. We have to do all we can to keep things fun, especially when it rains so much.
I hope you all are staying afloat!