It’s hard for me to think of what to write about right now that will have anything profound or hopeful to offer you. This pandemic is still having such a gripping effect on our everyday lives. This year has had so many crazy changes, personal and professional. My brain is fried. But I am going to try to find a few nuggets for you, at least share a few of the highs and lows from this year.

Sundays Off

This is the first time in 15 years that my partner and I have taken a day off together. We have been doing Saturday and Sunday farmers’ markets for the last 15 years together. A few years ago  we switched to taking turns on Sundays, but that still didn’t give us any family time.

This year, with the circumstances of the pandemic, first the market wasn’t open, then it wasn’t really worth attending with the restrictions, and finally we just made the choice to prioritize family time instead of sales. Literally, this little thing has had a gigantic effect on my life. Our Sunday market customers are sad and miss us and email and message me weekly asking when we will be back. We still send some limited flowers up to the Sunday market with a vendor who lives near us, but it’s only a very small amount compared to our normal sales. Now that I have seen the light of working a little less, I don’t think I can ever go back. And while we are missing a big chunk of our income from this market, our overall revenue is up year to date. We have made some major increases in wholesale sales, which requires a little less labor on our part. And so, at the end of the year, I don’t think we will see any significant change in net income, but I will let you know for sure once we get there.

Even if most Sundays I still do farm chores, pick sunflowers, sneak in a solo work project, clean the house, and do all the laundry, I am trying really hard to find a little time to relax and do floral design practice for fun. Read a little. Cook a little more. And we are committed to making family fun happen, which is really a challenge. It’s so easy to fill it all up with work.  We have taken our kids hiking, kayaking, skateboarding, to eat sushi (okay, we always do that on occasion), legit home manicures, and so many other things that we have never had time for before.

Employee Solidarity

Something about the pandemic state of the world has really brought our crew together. I am not sure I can totally put my finger on why. But maybe the social distancing, spouses/partners losing jobs, appreciating locally-sourced food more than before, feeling needed and supporting one another, I don’t know exactly, but I feel like we have the tightest, strongest, most caring and dedicated crew, as a whole, that we have ever had. We have kept the crew a little smaller than usual this year, as we froze hiring this spring. I don’t feel like I can take the credit for any new hiring or training techniques or anything we implemented consciously. Just a little gift from the universe, sending us some hard-working, lovely people this year. I am going to hang on to them as tight as I can.

Selling Wholesale

Again, something about the pandemic. People can’t do what they normally do, but they still want security and connection, good food, and beauty in their lives. During the pandemic we have developed a few new, bigger wholesale accounts this year that have really helped us stay afloat this year. One is a large local food cooperative, who buys from us and distributes to restaurants, CSAs, and health food stores around the state. This has allowed us to break into a larger geographic market area than we were ever willing to deliver to before. And this account has brought in some significant extra revenue to cover for one fewer farmers’ market.

The premier floral wholesaler in our region has also finally started buying from us. I have been talking to them for over two years about this and while they seemed interested, it never took off, even after they came out more than once to tour the farm. Well, this year, with a new manager in place, they finally started buying. One month in and it’s going amazingly well. This may not be very exciting news for those of you in places where local flowers have been “in” for a long time now. But honestly, here in Arizona, it’s still new. The most surprising part (to me anyway) was how well they promoted our product from the get-go. They put our farm name on everything we send to them. They made a special display area for local product (currently that’s only us) and they post about us on Instagram every time they get a new delivery. They pick up from our farm (2.5 hours away) twice a week. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to drop my florist prices by very much for the wholesaler and the product seems to be flying off the shelves. They order in larger quantities and rarely specify any colors or types, which is so much less work than the smaller florists I have been selling to who have a lot of specific needs, understandably. And because this year has been crazy, we aren’t always completely ready with their order when the driver arrives early.

The best part is the delivery folks get to walk around the farm on a self-guided tour, shop in the farmstand for fresh veggies, and appreciate the clean air and quiet surroundings. I forget how magical a farm can be when you live cooped up in the city.  I am sure they go back to the warehouse and brag about what a great trip it was.  Thank you, Mayesh Phoenix, for making my fear of selling to wholesalers a lot less scary.

So, wow, 2020. It’s been a real roller coaster. Not just the pandemic, but Black Lives Matter, online schooling, unprecedented wildfires, Supreme Court upheaval, lots of personal challenges and heartbreak for people in my inner circle, and so much unknown about the future. I can’t put into words the depths of it all or where my hope lies. I can barely handle one day to the next.  But I do hear from almost everyone that flower sales are great, apart from the wedding industry.

I hope you all are surviving the best you can. Take a moment to acknowledge how hard this year has been, and appreciate the people you love. And please feel free to reach out to me—I would love to hear how your year is going, all the ups and downs.

I am including a few bouquet shots from this year since Erin McMullen and I recently did a Facebook Live for the ASCFG on our bouquet programs.  I finally found my perfect bouquet backdrop, the cement floor of our vegetable processing room.