If you have been following the blog for some time, you probably know that my friend Jenny and I set on a mission to visit local farms this summer, to get a better insight of what they do and share it with you on the blog. If you have been following the blog, you probably also know that Re-Discover Washington is driven entirely by my artistic whimsy, which sometimes means that I might have visited Flower Hill Farm all the way back in July and I am just now blogging about it. I like to think of myself as a follower of the Romantics, who believed that in order to perceive the sublime you need to spend some time in quiet contemplation after you have been in contact with it, and only after that you could put down pen to paper and describe in rhyme its immeasurable inexplicable qualities. In other words, I tend to procrastinate if I don’t have deadlines…
Back in July, Jenny and I had the immense pleasure of visiting Flower Hill Farm in Beaufort, MO and meeting its wonderful owners and flower growers Vicki and Jack. Enjoy the interview with them below, complete with pictures and captions.
How did you decide to start Flower Hill Farm?
Both of us independently, and then together in our marriage have a longstanding desire to live on a farm, in a more nature based rather than urban setting. Vicki has gone through Master Gardener training, and always has been involved in growing. Jack grew a first model organic garden at the Arboretum (now called the Shaw Nature Reserve) a long time ago. We didn’t know flower farming was going to be our focus when we found our place in Beaufort. We talked to many people: Extension agent from Lincoln University, Conservation Department people, University of Missouri Extension, too, as we began to figure out our plan.
At that time, we were able to participate in the Missouri Beginner Farmer Entrepreneurial Program that was in its third session offered through the University of Missouri in Columbia. In that program, we visited dozens of farms in Kansas City, Colombia, Burlington Vermont and in the St Louis area. We had the opportunity to see how others were succeeding, or just hanging on. Some were clearly more about lifestyle, others more about building a business. The program expected us to develop and present a business plan, and the opportunity to grow flowers came into focus.
How long have you been in business?
Our first year was getting settled, getting oriented, starting to understand the scale of what we were doing. Our second year became our first year as cut flower growers. This is our third year selling cut flowers.
Do you grow flowers all year round?
The process is almost year around, beginning again soon after it ends with a frost. After selecting, sourcing and ordering seeds for the coming growing season, we get a little break before starting those seeds in trays in the greenhouse in late January. We use greenhouses to get started, but pretty much everything ends up growing outdoors in our process. We are not currently using high tunnels or greenhouse for production. We have flowers from late May until an October frost.
Where can people buy your flowers?
The outlets we have found for selling our flowers are mostly in St Louis. Florist, event planners, wholesalers, and do it yourself brides are our primary customers. We participate in some farmers markets as well.
Can people come visit the farm/volunteer to help?
We have occasional work days, and offer pick your own events, but only with advance notice. We are not set up for “drop in visitors”–there are just too many details to keeping things growing. Believe it or not, flower growing can be stressful at times, and don’t forget delivery responsibilities.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of having a flower farm?
Flower cutting tends to happen in the cooler part of the day–early morning and late afternoon and evening. It is our good fortune to “have to” be outdoors in the middle of beds of flowers at that time. We attract lots of birds, sometimes they provide the only sound we hear, other than the wind in the trees. It is real physical effort, which feels great.
You moved from the City to the Country – is it possible to get the best of both worlds and where do you feel yourself drawn more?
Having friends and family from St. Louis means we have an opportunity to offer a glimpse of the lifestyle we have chosen. We delight in this. Perhaps that inspires some to dream a little , and perhaps act on a dream, which is what we have gotten to do. Not that it’s all fun and smiles. It is hard physical work, frustrating sometimes (some critter chewed through the irrigation tubing again, or an invasion of insects has to be addressed in a sensible way.) We come in from cutting some nights at 9:30, and are hungry, and tired. Overall though, we can only wonder how lucky we are.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We see ourselves as part of a movement that cares about agricultural practice. Sustainable practice, for us, is thinking long term, wondering about the long term consequence of the way we do things. Can we leave our property, our region, in better condition because of what we are doing, than we found it. Will there be runoff, residue or depletion of resource that someone else will have to deal with? Or can we–learning as we go, of course, make a best effort to do the right thing. We are part of the Certified Naturally Grown organization, which, while similar to USDA Organic, uses a system of farmers certifying other farmers. We think in the future, local will be a much more respected part of things than it is now. We are proud that when someone inhales deeply in one of our bouquets, there is no chemical residue they are inhaling.
We are also members of Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, which is a national organization that wants to promote best practices in flower growing. And we love the books “The 50 Mile Bouquet”, and “Slow Flowers” by Debra Prinzing which says a lot about who we are.
Flower Hill Farm is located at 848 Laurel Lane, Beaufort, MO. You can reach Vicki and Jack at (314)882-9642 or email@example.com. Visit their website here and like their Facebook page for updates!