2020 Winter - Grower Profile
Tending to a flower farm comes naturally for a nurse turned grower
Rosie Standish loves hearing the reaction when she first opens the barn doors for the farm to vase events she hosts at Field of Blooms, a cut flower farm in Mantua, Ohio, to reveal tables filled with a huge selection of cut flowers.
“It’s always fun to hear the big gasp,” Standish recalls. “The next thing people ask is, ‘You grow all of this?’ They have no idea how many different kinds of flowers there are or that they are all growing so close to their homes.”
Standish hosts several field to vase events every year. The hands-on workshops are designed to introduce attendees to the farm and encourage them to express their creativity by creating one-of-a-kind bouquets.
“It’s an opportunity to touch and smell different flowers and experiment with different ways of putting them together, which you can’t do when you buy flowers at the grocery store,” she says.
Standish has learned that the arrangements often match the personalities of those making them. Those who are quiet and introverted tend to make smaller, more demure bouquets while those who are outspoken and boisterous tend to create larger arrangements and use bolder colors.
Watching people respond to her flowers is one of the things Standish likes best about her work.
“Flowers bring people such joy,” she says. “I almost never have someone leave without a smile on their face.”
From Garden to Farm
“My husband [John] and I like to dig in the dirt and we continued to expand our garden bed.” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘I have so many flowers; what if I set up a little stand out front?’”
The farmhouse was set on a well-traveled road and served as a landmark in the Ohio community so it didn’t take long for passersby to notice a table filled with cut flowers and a sign that said, “Fresh Flowers for Sale.”
Standish started selling bouquets as fast as she could set them out. Before long, she realized that she wasn’t growing enough flowers to meet the demand.
“I started growing more and learning more [about flower farming] and realized it was its own little industry,” Standish says.
In 2016, Standish left her job as a nurse-midwife to pursue flower farming full time. Field of Blooms has expanded from a few gardens to one and a half acres of annual and perennial cut flowers, including eucalyptus, ageratum, celosia, peony, bleeding heart, ranunculus, white lilac, sweet pea, veronica, garden phlox, and dianthus. In Ohio, Standish is able to grow cut flowers from late May through October. She is in the process of constructing a new hoophouse (thanks to funding from the USDA High Tunnel Initiative) to extend her growing season.
Like most growers, Standish sells flowers to florists, at farmers markets, via a subscription model, and designs arrangements for weddings and other special events. She still maintains the roadside flower stand that kick-started her business.
Standish loves helping people select flowers that make them smile; sometimes that means selling tried-and-true blooms like sunflowers, and dahlias—one of Standish’s favorites—but she also delights in introducing people to new discoveries.
“It’s great to bring things like godetia and safflower to the markets and have people do a double take and ask, ‘What are those?’” she says.
Standish also appreciates opportunities to bring people to the farm to show them how flowers are grown. For many, it’s their first time on a flower farm and their first time learning that most of the cut flowers sold in the United States are imported from other countries. Markers at the end of each row list the varieties of flowers, ensuring that visitors get to learn something while taking in the beautiful surroundings.
During seasonal open houses, Standish sets up stations around the farm. The staff takes turns explaining different aspects of flower farming, from the use of plastic row covers and pest management to harvesting and caring for cut flowers. The on-farm events are another way Standish educates her community about flower farming and encourages customers to purchase local blooms.
In the future, Standish hopes to hire someone to help with sales and marketing to allow her more time to focus on growing flowers; she would also like to share her passion with the next generation of flower farmers, providing hands-on experiences that could help them to succeed.
“In order for me to be successful and have the product that I want to have, I need to hire help.” she says. “I’d love to see more people in our area pursuing flower farming; competition is always healthy in commerce.”