Notes from the Team
Introduction from Laura Beth
I was 23 years old when I started Butterbee Farm. Fresh from inspiring but low-paying apprenticeships on other farms, I didn’t have any savings and was close to broke. That first season of Butterbee, I farmed a little but mostly worked other jobs. I made lattes, babysat, fed people’s pets, did secretarial work—and best of all, Ellen gave me hours at her shop.
How long have you been working at Locoflo and Butterbee?
Jess: I’ve been at Locoflo for 3 years October 2020—I feel like it’s been so much longer! I’ve been at Butterbee officially since April of 2020 but in 2018 I trained for the season once a week at Butterbee Farm through the Beginner Farmer Training Program (level 2) of the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, so I’m no newbie to the crew.
Liz: I started working at Butterbee Farm in March of 2019 and have been ever since. Local Color Flowers was then gracious enough to invite me into the studio on 4th of July last year and begin to teach me the ways of floral design. I have mostly done studio cleaning and deliveries during my time there, but also dabbled in some holiday wreath making.
Brittney: I started working at Locoflo in 2015—five years, wow! I’ve had varying schedules during my time at Locoflo, sometimes holding a regular weekly schedule, and other times filling in on busy weekends and for wedding installations, etc. I was a trainee at Butterbee Farm in 2016, and I’ve filled in here and there since then. I feel like I’ve had some involvement in Butterbee since the beginning, LB is one of my good friends so I’m always aware of farm happenings, even seasons when I haven’t worked at the farm!
Jess: I just like working with my hands. Before diving into local flower farming and arranging I worked as a visual display artist, and before that went to art school so I feel like flower arranging comes naturally to me. Flower farming is just like another material to me, another way of creating, making something appear, problem solving, I think that is why I gravitate to both.
Liz: I would like to think I have always been a creative person and I always love an opportunity to design, but I definitely know more about farming at this point. That being said, there is always more to learn, even when you are beginning to feel comfortable.
Brittney: I started flower farming at the exact time I met Ellen and started to learn floral design, so both practices are intertwined for me. Learning flower farming and design simultaneously has been a great joy, and has helped me excel at both jobs. I have an eye for harvesting flowers, flower trends, flowers, and foliage that work well in arrangements, etc. from my work at Locoflo. I have an understanding of seasonality, postharvest handling, growing practices, and the regional farm community from my work at sustainable flower and vegetable farms, including Butterbee.
Liz: COVID-19 has 100% changed the flower game. I am sure at this point you personally or someone you know has had a wedding cancelled, postponed, or minimized. We are still selling, but in a much different context than before. Orders are no longer placed as far in advance. We are getting requests much more last minute, and we must be agile enough to respond and be able to accommodate the new work flow. We moved our on-farm seedling sale to online. This totally changed our work; we shifted into propagation work and seeding almost nonstop. Then when May began to crawl in, we had to pull over 150 custom orders and prepare them for delivery. Now we are nearly back into a regular farm rhythm, but orders show up out of the blue and we need to pivot. It helping us grow—it’s a challenge that we are facing every day. It’s making us better and helping us refine systems. Above all, we are implementing more safety practices and trying to communicate more clearly every day.
Brittney: My work week is crazy! I’m in a landscape architecture graduate program at Morgan State University, so my schedule shifts and changes several times throughout the year depending on my class schedule. I’m about to start two summer classes, and I’m juggling other school-related responsibilities throughout the year such as internships, projects, and research. I am very thankful that Locoflo and Butterbee have always been understanding and flexible with my schedule. Some COVID-19-related changes in my 2020 spring and summer schedule have allowed me to dedicate more time to working at Locoflo and Butterbee. Right now I work about 8-16 hours a week at Butterbee and 8-12 at Locoflo.
Jess: The best thing about working at the farm and the studio is following the flowers from farm to arrangement to delivery or (pre-pandemic) event. I just feel so connected to the flowers, even though it’s such a short length of time with them from harvest to arrangement. When harvesting I am thinking about the quality of the stem and how excited the designer will be, and when designing I’m thinking about how excited the customer is going to be; it is just the best all around.
Hmm, I’m not sure they really share a common “kind of hard” for me. They are different in a lot of ways. The hardest part of farming for me so far is how physical it is—maybe I’ll gain some more farm strength and stamina this season but usually after my Mondays and Tuesdays at Butterbee I am wiped. For Locoflo I think it would be customer expectation. I’m always a little on edge when handing over an arrangement or placing a bucket. I know what went into growing it, making it, how long it will last, and why they are priced the way they are but right now it’s harder to educate customers, or have that customer connection since it’s basically through text messages or email. I don’t get to see people’s reactions to things because I’m just dropping arrangements off on doorsteps. So sometimes it takes a few text messages back and forth with a customer to help them realize their ranunculus will open up and it will blow them away!
Liz: I absolutely love seeing the life cycle of the product. Last year, we would work with brides for DIY weddings, but most of the time we thought in terms of the flower ending its life at the florist. A lot of times now, we know each person our flowers go to as we do more deliveries. Whether we are tagged in an Instagram post or get an email or text, there is greater connection. The hardest part would definitely be the shift in paces. Often times I find creative work can be difficult to rush, while on the farm there are always a million and one other things that need to get done, and time is of the essence. I love both and together they help me keep balance.
Brittney: The sense of community that both Ellen and Laura Beth have created around local flowers and their businesses is the best part about working at Locoflo and Butterbee. Although we haven’t be able to gather due to COVID-19, Ellen and Laura Beth have continued to foster a sense of community among staff and the community with initiatives such as social media meetings and design demos, Locoflo’s The Bucket, and Butterbee’s spring plant sale. The hardest part is juggling my crazy schedule between school and multiple jobs. Also, working outside in the summer heat is hard for me! My favorite weather is cool and misty, so I much prefer to work outside in the spring and fall.
Farming and floral design are both really physical. What do you do to stay healthy working on your feet all day?
Jess: Now that I have farming in the mix of my work week, I haven’t done any working out. But I also just don’t stop. On the weekends I usually am farming and gardening at my own house, working on house projects, or art projects. Lately when my body has been wanting a release, I’ll find time to do some yoga. Stretching is so good! I also just purchased roller skates that I am counting down the seconds until they are delivered! I just realized maybe I can practice at the Locoflo studio on our smooth floors!
Jess: I like harvesting snapdragons; it’s very clear cut when they’re ready to harvest. To design with…is SO HARD TO CHOOSE, I feel like it could change at any time. Liz asked me this question the other day and I said delphinium for some reason! But today I’ll say butterfly ranunculus—it makes everything better.
Liz: This is not even a question—I love cutting raspberry foliage. If you are lucky there are big juicy raspberries for the sampling, but only if you aren’t in a super hurry. I could eat all the raspberries in the world if anyone would let me. Then for design, ‘Ruby Silk’ grass. It’s so romantic. I couldn’t imagine something more fun.
Liz: In order of self-preservation, I will refrain from answering this question. All snacks are always appreciated. That being said, there could always be more snacks.