Last fall was all about re-connecting, re-assessing and re-evaluating for me, and our business. After a super busy season of farming, and raising three kids, I’d been feeling a bit overwhelmed and certainly overworked, a theme that I hear from many of my fellow farmers as our seasons wind down and the winter months loom ahead.
So, what do flower farmers even do in the winter? It’s a question that we’re asked often, usually followed by a knowing smile and a comment like “Just sit around and relax, read, catch up on the news?” And I’ll smile back and say, “We just keep working—there’s always something to do.”
Last year, we made a solid effort to get our season wrapped up as efficiently as possible, and to work on resetting for 2020 with renewed enthusiasm. Mother Nature helped in this by granting us with an extra early (for us) frost on October 9th, effectively ending our season, save the few crops in our hoops and on our home property, which didn’t see frost until two weeks later. If I’m being honest, it was a welcome relief, both physically and mentally.
For us, the fall cleanup is mostly getting dahlias up and then putting the perennials to bed. We cover crop most of our annual fields and start to look forward to winter projects that will get done only in the off season.
After Nashville, we had our annual fall PNW Cut Flower Growers meet-up. This year Field to Heart, in Curtis, Washington hosted a group of growers. D and Val showed us around their new farm site, which is quickly becoming an amazing place. The day was made perfect by amazing Tom & Jerrys made by Val, great discussion about the ups and downs of our seasons, and an amazing spread of potluck dishes by the growers. Farmers really do know how to eat!
Our November was rounded out with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, for some much-needed rest and relaxation. However, as we’ve discovered over the years, one of our favorite things to do on vacation is to visit other farms, and we were able to visit multiple farms on the island, spearheaded by Liz of Lizzy Bee Sustainable Flower Farm. She set up a lovely time on a farm just up the road from her, Puaono Farms.
Leila was gracious enough to host us and three other farms at her place, where she gave us a tour of her new greenhouses, establishing perennial beds and off grid farm. It was truly fascinating to learn of the challenges that our tropical growers have, many that were just not on my radar at all (wild pigs anyone?), but many that we deal with as well: labor, water, insects, diseases, and pricing. Over a lovely snack and drinks we discussed the direction of flower growing on the island, and were surprised to learn that many of the flowers we so commonly think of and grow are all but new to the designers and florists there, and the demand is growing for some of our favorites, like dahlias, lisianthus, and eucalyptus, paving a path for growers to make a real impact in the trade on the island.
As a bonus, we were connected with Heidi of Always Anthuriums, and were invited to tour with them during this beginning of their busy season. Heidi’s father has been growing anthuriums for decades, first under traditional shade structures, and then under native forest cover. I can’t even begin to describe what an amazing experience it was to walk under towering Ohi’a trees and tree ferns, seeing bed after bed of anthurium growing up and blooming, some over my head. It was a walk in a dream. The farm is amazing, the people are the kindest and most lovely, and the whole experience just concreted in my mind how farming has the power to bring us all together. We left with full hearts, and a beautiful bouquet of anthurium.
The takeaway? We’re all going through the same stuff. The rough patches, where the insects are out of control, the pigs are marauding, and the paperwork has you wanting to escape to a desert island; and the good patches, when we celebrate the beauty and success of what we do, daily. So, how do you connect with each other? How are you sharing the joy, and the struggles? I would like to encourage us all to build this amazing community, one connection at a time. Have you? Let me know! [email protected]