2019 was, without doubt, the most amazing year my business has ever had.
This year I pushed myself harder than ever before to attain excellence and success. My garden was bigger and more beautiful than ever, and I successfully grew dozens of flowers in hundreds of varieties. I got to share those flowers with more people than ever, through farmers markets, awesome retail partners, farm tours and workshops, my first weddings, and more. I also met and connected with so many amazing people this year. Colleagues, peers, and friends all came into my life and were integral to my business’s success.
Let’s take a brief look back at what happened this year. I’ve shared some of these things before, but some events have gotten more exposure than others!
I started the year out strong with some custom seed-starting shelves built by my grandpa. This was my best set-up ever, allowing me to plant thousands of seeds that would grow strong and consistent, and set me up for success in the rest of the year.
With April came prom season, and I outfitted my fellow high school students with flowers for the dance. Afterwards, I used the extra flowers to make some more conceptual wearable floral designs.
May brought the very first flowers of the season, tulips. This was my first year growing them, and I got hooked on their beauty and what a customer favorite they turned out to be. Turns out after the 6+ month-long Minnesota winter, people are eager to snap up flowers. I was eager to oblige.
Toward the middle of May, between planting and harvesting, I graduated from Central Lakes College at 18 years old, with my high school diploma, an A.A.S. Degree in Business Management and an Entrepreneurship certificate. I am more than grateful for the opportunity the state of Minnesota provides to students to receive a 2-year degree while still in high school, and I learned so much in the business program that helped me to grow my own business. However… I was very excited to be done with school and able to throw myself at my work full-time.
I did throw a fun grad party with tons of flowers involved.
June as a whole was uneventful, just finishing transplanting all of the baby plants outside, and waiting impatiently for them to begin blooming. Warm weather was late in coming again this past year, and the first blooms didn’t come for weeks after my estimates. It was very discouraging, and challenging to be working so hard and not having any flowers to sell. But such is the nature of an agricultural business.
At the end of June I had the opportunity to attend the Slow Flowers Summit. Out of all the big cities in the U.S. it could have been, Debra Prinzing chose Minneapolis/St. Paul, which was only 2 hours away from my farm. For the first time, I was able to connect and spend time with a group of people who I felt I really belonged to. These people understood my life and industry in a way that only florists, flower farmers, and farmer-florists can. Getting to network and make friends with so many awesome and flowery people was so fun and so encouraging, and I returned home with new knowledge and inspiration.
Finally, in the MIDDLE of July, I started getting flowers coming in and blooming in earnest, and I was able to begin selling them. The biggest challenge to my business has always been getting flowers early enough in the season. While I have had flowers earlier and earlier each year, 2019 still left much to be desired and has pushed me to invest in some season extension techniques and equipment in 2020.
It was about this time that I started working closely with Abra Hawley of Hawley Hill Gardens to sell our flowers to other local florists in the area. Every Tuesday we loaded our flowers together into my old minivan and drove a circuit of about 100 miles to reach several florists all over the area. It was hard work, but we were able to provide our fresh, organically-grown local flowers to florists and their customers, many of whom had no access to them before.
I started selling my flowers through retail shops for the first time this year. Purple Fern Bath Co. in Brainerd and Victual in Crosby carried bunches of flowers, and I am so grateful that they took a chance on my business and provided that sales avenue for me! I also returned for the third year to the Cuyuna Range Farmers Market and had a blast selling flowers there, as always.
Throughout the summer, I hosted two farm tours, a yoga session with Angellica Holt Yoga, and a floral design workshop. Dozens of people came to see the garden and learn more about flowers and flower farming. They were the most fun and rewarding experiences ever. I loved sharing my garden and flowers with others, and these events always reminded me to look at the farm as a beautiful place and not just a 1/2 acre of chores, and of how lucky I am to be able to do this work.
This year I flowered for 3 weddings. Each one involved more flowers than the last, and each included many flowers from my own garden. I love creating weddings that are unique and sustainable, and I hope to do even more in 2020!
I also put together several photoshoots with my friends this summer, which helped me to experiment with new techniques and color palettes, and expand my portfolio. I always want to be pushing boundaries and doing unexpected things with flowers and foliage, so I will be making more editorial shoots like these a priority this coming year.
At the end of August, my flowers returned to the welcome tables of the Lakes Area Music Festival. I always have fun making arrangements that I donate to their twice-weekly concerts. This year they also let me make a really big arrangement for the stage of their final concert… truly a dream come true for me.
September is the month of winding down flower production and beginning to clean up the garden. However, this year September did have a little excitement, afforded by an interview on the Slow Flowers Podcast! I am so grateful to Debra Prinzing for everything she has done to further my career, especially for featuring me on the podcast. I had a great time talking with her and sharing my story with the Slow Flowers community at large.
As soon as I wrapped up my last wedding, I was off to my first freelancing experience with Roadside Blooms in Charleston, South Carolina. I learned a lot about floral design and business on this trip, and I had so much fun working on their weddings and exploring the area. I had only a week to catch my breath from that trip and finish building the new/used hoophouse, before I was on the road again to Tucson, Arizona, to work with Posh Petals for a couple of weeks.
To finish off this year, the holiday season rolled around like always and I teamed up with Cuyuna Brewing Co. and Roundhouse Brewery to put on 2 awesome Christmas wreath workshops. I love showing people how to make a wreath with local pine and then decorate it to make it their own. I had a huge turnout this year and ended 2019 on a very high note!
I am so grateful for all the amazing people that helped my business grow this year, whether by buying my flowers or events, teaching me about flowers, modelling flowers, or simply befriending me and providing moral support. And while this was my best year ever, I know I can make an even better one next year!
Have a wonderful rest of your holiday season! Much love, Mary