I’ll go ahead and admit it: my emotions have been one crazy rollercoaster lately. At the root of all these ups and downs is, of course, the “farm”. The supposedly crazy idea that I wanted to be a flower farmer all started about three years ago. Before then, I would have considered myself a rather experienced grower. I’d had a pretty extensive vegetable garden for a number of years, and I knew how to grow everything that I wanted to put on the kitchen table. However, taking on this new task presented so many new issues that needed to be overcome. Thus, the list of my top 5 concerns and considerations was born! It’s important to note that these are based solely on my own experience, but perhaps others may be able to relate, as well. They may even extend, in a lot of ways, to ventures outside the world of flower farming – who knows? I hope you enjoy!
Location – I feel like I could write about the importance of finding a location for 3 days. Do you have enough space? Do you get enough sunlight? Will the plants be protected from the wind? How level is the ground? Location may not be an immediate issue that comes to mind, especially if you own your own home. In general flower farms aren’t like other crops, in that you don’t necessarily need to grow 100 acres of something. However, in my case, I was initially limited to a very small 30’x30′ backyard that was covered in shade for most of the day. While my proximity to the “big city” was an incredible asset, it was also a detriment. That teeny tiny backyard could grow a lot of food or enough flowers for myself and my family – but it certainly couldn’t sustain any kind of consistent sales. One option that I initially explored was the use of community gardens. Community gardens are great places for the most part. It’s a wonderful thing to meet others who share the same passion as you. Unfortunately, my local community garden was a site of some rather shady individuals engaging in drugs, vandalism, and various other things that I’d just prefer to completely avoid. Eventually, I came to the conclusion to lease land outside of the city and grow there. This worked wonderfully, aside from the commute which proved to be a extremely tiresome. With this option, it’s so important that guidelines are completely clear. Due to issues out of my control, I’m currently looking for a new place to grow – right in the middle of the season. I should be planting and picking flowers, but all of that flew out the window because I don’t yet have a reliable place to grow my own fragrant beauuuutiessss. Ugh! Did I mention not having a place for perennials, roses, hydrangeas, and other things really does rain allllll over my flower parade?
Investment – Regardless of what you want to do, following your dream is often very expensive. Whether you want to buy a farm, build a greenhouse, buy gorgeous roses, buy weed barrier fabric, or whatever – it’s going to cost a lot of money. I realize that “a lot” is very subjective. The money that I initially invested into making this a reality may not be considered very much to someone else – and, to someone else, I may have gone waaaayyy overboard. It wasn’t too long ago that I finished my Master’s degree. I’d been unable to get a job, and my lack of productivity, was driving me absolutely insane. With my idea in mind, I took to devising a plan to pave the way. I knew I had a lot of junk laying around the house that I could part with. I started with sites like Craigslist, and then moved on to selling smaller items such as clothing on eBay. The beauty of this is that one person’s trash may truly be another’s treasure. Many of the things that have sold (for rather high prices) are things that I would have simply thrown away. Once I cleaned my house, I began the business of buying and reselling. I was actually surprised to learn that some people make a business out of it even! There are endless possibilities out there, you’ve just got to find them! Don’t throw your hands up and surrender until you give it a good, determined try! If I can do it, you probably can too! I believe in you!
Knowledge – Just as much as land, this is a big one. As I mentioned, I loved veggie gardening. I believe this gave me a bit of false confidence heading into this adventure. The internet is a wealth of knowledge. Finding information on growing veggies was so easy. Everyone was doing it, and everyone was so passionate about the cause and sharing their experience. However, finding reliable help regarding growing flowers can be a little more difficult. Sure, there are millions of those generic sites, but the only information that is usually offered is nothing more than you can already find on the back of a seed package. People always take great pride when they are able to say they’re “___th generation” farmers. How envious of them I am that so much knowledge (and still learning!) has been passed over the years! As a first generation farm, however, I’ve got to literally start at “ground level”. While I’m not quite sure how many nights I’ve stayed up until 3am completely obsessing over how to grow something, I can assure you it’s a lot. Sharing my experiences, including my failures, is something that I’ve always wanted to do starting a blog. There are so many movements that promote local flowers and local foods, so why not offer as much information as possible to help these amazing ideas continue to grow and flourish!
Social Presence – What the point of spending money and growing beautiful flowers if no one even knows that you exist? Creating a website is easy these days. It’s much different than those days of html coding (we used to make websites in 4th grade). Unless you have your own physical store front, I don’t imagine that you’ll get nearly as much business without social media. Sure, you can call florists and go to markets…but, how far will your reach truly be? Most all of your customers use it – so you need to, too. Luckily for me, these outlets aren’t completely foreign. There are so many reasons that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are so important. As I quickly discovered, practically no one will take you seriously when you’re an “unknown”. It makes sense. Social media can let you build quite a rapport with customers, as well as help to display your skills, talents, and your totally gorgeous flower gardens. Interacting and answering questions can also impact the views associated with your online accounts. I personally love seeing the story behind any product that I buy and creating and nurturing that connection is so important. Don’t worry though, maintaining your online presence doesn’t have to dominate your life. There’s plenty of other websites out there to assist you! After a quick Google search, you can find tools to help you schedule your tweets and posts to go live for an entire week!
Support – Last but not least is support. As I mentioned above, when you start out, it’s likely that you won’t be taken very seriously – or at least it’s very possible that it will feel that way. Flower farming, or any new venture, is filled to the brim with failure and mistakes. It’s really important that you are prepared to “pick yourself up” and try again. This, of the other issues, is the one that I struggle with the most. Those around me didn’t agree that my idea was something valid and legitimate. When your heart is so invested in something, those opinions can feel extremely hurtful. Some days, I find myself starting to agree with those people and beginning to wonder what on Earth I’m doing. But, that’s when everything is going wrong. All it takes is one beautiful bloom to make me smile and remember why I love and have invested myself into this ambition.