Resources

These are the books and websites that inspire and inform my work and some thoughts on each. As I continue with my work, I will add to this list. Enjoy!

Books

Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

I believe the subheading says it all. This book is an encompassing look at the larger floral industry--from the plants to the growers to the designers to the consumer. The author gives a critical, but unbiased view that's founded in a love for flowers. I found Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 particularly enlightening for considering growing conditions in Central America and for the true costs of shipping.

Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

I cannot say enough positive things about this book. It's very approachable, but still scientific, citing several studies. The indexes alone are worth it--to see what plants attract which butterflies/moths.

Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation

Don Leopold taught at the university where I completed my masters. I kick myself now that I didn't become his groupie and absorb more of his native plant knowledge. This is my go to book for native plants.

The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers

This book was one of my early inspirations for flower farming. Its a gorgeous, photograph heavy book thats a nice introduction into the world of local flowers.

The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers

A.K.A the bible for new growers.

Speciality Cut Flowers

A pretty thorough technical guide to growing cut flowers, in field and greenhouse settings. A must for commericial growers.

Grow Your Own Cut Flowers

For the home grower or future flower farmer, Raven's book is bright and beautiful.

Fresh From the Fields Wedding Flowers

Great for couples to be inspired by local flowers for their wedding. Lots of photos, how-tos, and even videos for DIY.

Cool Flowers

Good tips for pushing the limits of hardy annuals--good info for growing in the north.

The Flower Recipe Book

Great for some flower inspiration and beginning arranging skills. 

The Market Gardener

This book has been my primer for the last 2 seasons and event though its specifically about vegetable production, it has a lot of carryover.

The Lean Farm

This is a new one for 2016 and I'm very intrigued and excited to apply its ideas to my production. Its based on the Japanese concept of Lean manufacturing, creating by Toyota. However, its concept is not restricted to manufacturing and gives a lot of insight in how to run a business more efficiently and effectively. 

Mary Oliver: New and Selected Poems

My inspiration for all things growing, beautiful, complex, scary, and sacred. Her words are etched in my mind and never fail to inspire.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

(and anything basically by Terry Tempest Williams)

My other idol and inspiration, Terry Tempest Williams, an American environmentalist who's words guide my life.

Websites

Floret Flowers Blog

A west coast virtual mentor and inspiration. Erin shares invaluable production information and has beautiful photos to boot.

Love n Fresh

My east coast virtual mentor.

Saipua

My biggest source for design inspiration and my favorite blog to read.

Pyrus Flowers

A Scottish source for flower art inspiration.

Slow Flowers Podcast

The podcast that looks at the local flower movement around the world.

Field to Vase: Pricing Primer

Jennie Love on Field to Vase talking shop and a funny and yet important reason why to pick local flowers for your wedding.

ASCFG

The place to be if your a cut flower nerd.

Growing for Market

The place to be if your a smaller, sustainable grower.

A hard rain’s a gonna fall

When I was in university, I started listening to Bob Dylan. Much of my early 20s was spent flying down the highway, wind in my hair, singing Dylan songs at the top of my lungs.

I thought about Dylan today as I surveyed the damage of the storm that rolled through when I was away visiting family.

My co-worker, who was at the greenhouse at the time, dealing with the insane storm called it “apocalyptic.”

I thought of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” as I was harvesting and wondering if my flowers were going to recover from the onslaught of rain, wind, and hail and whether it would have made a difference whether I was in town or not.

But being away shifted something in me. Spending time with family, catching up with friends, and spending some quiet time in a beautiful place gave me perspective.

Yes, the hail storm was bad, but there was nothing I could do about it. That’s farming—cultivating surrender alongside trying to keep things in hand. Sometimes there’s sun. Other times there’s clouds. Sometimes there’s lightning. Hopefully there is rain and not too much. Then sometimes there’s hail and wind. And there’s very little you can do about it.

I always though Dylan’s song was in protest of the Cold War. Listening again to it today and reading up on it, turns out it was never about nuclear war and its fall out.

"No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen.”

This is what Dylan said in a radio interview in 1963. Just rain. Hard rain. And sometimes, it’s just going to fall. It may been apocalyptic in character, but really a storm is a storm. Meanwhile I was hundreds of miles away enjoying my last evening with my family, watching the sunset and my aunt and uncle dance. Sharing my love of farming with my aunt. Cultivating some peace in my harried mind.

I love my flowers, but I chose to grow them because I knew the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t get it right or if nature moved against me in its totally impersonal way. In the end, flowers are flowers—beautiful, but ephemeral. There will always be another blossom, another year to get it right, but time with those I love is precious beyond reckoning. Beautiful and necessary.

To be a real farmer

Its close to bed time as I’m writing this, but this post has been building for some time and I think I need to hash it out before sleep.

The last two months I have been working nose-to-grindstone, fast-and-furious, burning-the-candle-at-both-ends, insert any other phrase to say I’ve been working a lot, and really, at times, too much.

A combination of too many commitments, all of which I like, came crashing down on my head starting in April. I’m still catching up, weeding out the things that are not so precious to me, and trying to find time to, well, exhale and sit.

Now add a fierce and long winter followed by a long delayed and mucky spring and you have Spring 2014.

Talking to other farmers makes me feel better. Today, honestly for the first time in at least 6 weeks, I finally looked at the blogs of my favorite flower farmers and the flower farming groups I belong to on Facebook. I’ve been avoiding them, truthfully. I had to stop because I couldn’t stop the guilt train riding me down and squashing whatever farming self-esteem I’d mustered. But today I looked and realized, no, I’m not the only one. Everyone is behind, and not in a pat-on-the-back, its not you its all of us way. Literally, 2-4 weeks is the delay we’re all facing, at least in the northeast.

So the last two months, I’ve been digging, tilling, planting, composting, instructing, harvesting, and during the time when I can slow down and the crews are quiet and working to their own thoughts, my mind contemplates this question:

What would a real farmer do? What is it to be a real farmer? Can I call myself a farmer now that I do it full time (and most weeks, far more than full time)?

This all started with a vole. A mama vole to be specific.

I left some transplants outside to harden off (and to await my bed prep). Mysteriously. Snip. Snip. Snip. Several of my flower seedlings disappeared.

I discovered the culprit when I moved said trays and found a nest of voles, including tiny, hairless babies, under my trays. Lining their nest with my plants.

Farmer dilemma.

Luckily I had the support of my coworker. We stood over the nest. What would a real farmer do? I knew they were pests. Killing my plants. But in the end, we scared mama away, carefully removing her babies to a new nest. More voles followed.

The question remained, what is it to be a real farmer?

I worked through rain until I was soaked to the skin (is this what a real farmer should do?)

I took too long to make my beds (what would a real farmer done instead?)

I said yes when I should have said no to commitments (does a real farmer do that?)

I rose with the sun when I needed to sleep (when does a real farmer work?)

I dreamed about farming when I wasn’t at the farm (what does a real farmer dream about?)

I thought about the farmers I knew, how they learned, the mistakes they made. I thought about how with farming, I had only dipped my toes in before I decided to jump into the depths, without knowing fully if I could swim.

I realized: a real farmer farms. Tries their best and still fails sometimes. Makes hard decisions based on their own experience and what they believe is right. And lives with the consequences. Wakes up each day not necessarily fresh and excited, but when they touch the soil know their heart ultimately beats there.

This is what is to be a real farmer. To love the soil, sun, rain, wind, and growing things. To care for something. To produce for others. Everything and nothing more.