Many days this summer began with Anna, Joseph and myself tumbling out of our little red Mazda pickup into the field around 7 am, and beginning the morning’s tasks. Soon after, another red truck – this time a 90’s model Tacoma – would drive through the open gate in the deer fence around our field and our flower farmer friend Courtney would emerge. Her business partner Jamie would also often show up within the hour. They would start filling square plastic containers with water from the well, and soon after they’d be filled with cut flowers of all sizes and colors.
Courtney and Jamie own and operate a small business called Flower and Bee. They grow cut flowers for flower shares, weddings, bat mitzvahs and anything else in need of gorgeous arrangements. They grow these flowers on a 1/4 acre plot in the same field where we grow our vegetables. When we of Wild Ridge decided to lease the land and launch our business we knew we’d have more than enough space for Flower and Bee.
Each of our businesses have separate leases with our landlords, but everything else we share is decided upon collectively by ourselves. They share space in our walk-in cooler and the greenhouse, they use the upper part of the barn as a work space for their arrangements and storage of their many vessels. Together we talk out details like who will irrigate at what time of day, and sometimes we make purchases together like compost and drip tape.
There are numerous unforeseen advantages to having another farm business working right along side our own. I love being able to walk through their plot and see all the different types of flowers they cultivate; as a grower and producer I am interested in crops of all kinds. Courtney would show me how they encourage longer stems on each individual bloom, ask whether I thought it was the tarnish plant bug eating the dahlias, point out how many types of ornamental grasses there are to choose from, and patiently name all the flowers I couldn’t identify.
On Fridays Courtney and Jamie would start arranging in the barn around noon, and depending on how many weddings they had that weekend, sometimes it would almost be dark by the time they would finish. After we were done with the days market harvest, wash and pack, Anna and I would grab some wine and head to the barn to see what beautiful bouquets, adorable boutonnieres and fabulous table arrangements were in store for their clients. My skills as a florist have increased tenfold after watching these girls create.
Because I’ve always been a very social person, cultivating a community of farmers is a very important part of the lifestyle for me. Luckily, in our rural area the desire to forge links between each of our small-scale farms runs strong. Many of us make an effort to host potlucks and other gatherings with some frequency, as well as getting together in smaller groups to discuss ways in which our farms can work together.
Farming is unlike any other work in the world and there is no way to truly understand it unless you have participated in every aspect from planning to harvest to putting the farm to sleep for winter. In a profession where the workload can often be overwhelming and the margins slim, I think it’s important to have a strong network of other people who can relate.
Flowers in their own right, and Courtney and Jamie as individuals, brought an element of lightness and artistry that is distinctly different yet completely compatible with our vegetable operation. We have yet to feel certain that there is a way in which we can collaborate in a marketing sense, and it’s possible that we never will. But in an atmospheric and energetic sense, I think the alliance of our on-farm operations results in stronger businesses for all of us. And there is the added bonus of simply having good friends around to share in the successes and challenges of each day.