Bringing our flowers to market with a plant-powered bike cart took all our time and energy away from the blog. If you’ll indulge us, we will share some of our highlights from 2019!
As our gardens are finally put to rest and most of the chores outside are done (cue the nostalgic musical swell), and we can finally prop our feet up by the fire and reflect on the seasons of this year and all we achieved ! I am so thankful to each and every one of you who has encouraged us along the way. We keep striving for better, for our communities and for the environment and it’s thanks to all the engagements online and at the market we know we are on the right path. This year i’ve also had lots of amazing teachers helping me make educated decisions and be clear about what we want to achieve with the business. I am so humbled by all the opportunities i’ve had to educate myself to better serve the gardens, my flowers, myself and my customers.
You’ve heard me talk about my Kung Fu training? That’s a journey that began at the start of 2019 at Chiu Lau Kung Fu College, and I didn’t realize it then but it was getting me ready for the newest part of my flower adventure. The bike ride. Our flowers commute with us rain or shine to the market by bicycle. Not only did it kick-start my fitness training, but brought me into a solid and diverse community, located within my west side neighbourhood. This fall marked another milestone, my second Kung-fu belt! Another rung in the ladder on this journey. I’m a sucker for a good metaphor, and being able to mark my Kung Fu journey with tangible belts, also marks my progress into the flower farming world.
Kung Fu has been a way to focus and work on discipline. I’ve joked before about how starting up our garden was like training at the 36 Chambers of Shaolin, and actually going to train with a community at the school was the next step. Much like our flower journey, this is the year we made the step out of our backyard and into the market scene! The 124 Grand Market was our market of choice. The 124 street area was my stomping grounds growing up and I think the best way to serve as many folks as we can in proximity to our gardens.
It’s amazing what can be achieved when some dedication, discipline and drive are implemented. I feel blessed to have had the support of my Kung Fu community and now the Market community as I continue to grow this dream. While my sights are set for the next goal on the horizon, the next year, the start of a new decade has the feeling of limited possibilities. Before we dive into our upcoming schemes, which we’ll do in a later post, I wanted to give a little highlight reel from this season.
June 16, 2019, Our Maiden Voyage.
Our bicycle flower cart made it to market. We hauled our first market batch to market 6.9kms from where they were grown. (102 ave 124 st). This sunday also happened to be Father’s day.
People don’t really see Father’s Day as a “flower” holiday, but we filled our little bike cart with local blooms and the people were very receptive! This was a small achievement for this little farm. Zone 3 is a cold climate, with the high today (June 19) at 11 degrees over freezing. We relied on some cold hardy flowers, and some fearless cold season techniques we learned from Lisa Mason Zeigler and her Flower Farming School Online. Undoubtedly she has been a major influence in our farm’s growth, and her course was a game changer.
Despite our best efforts we missed Mother’s Day this year. Our Tulips bloomed days after in true ironic fashion. Being able to provide mixed bunches for Father’s Day was a great reward for the first part of this year’s hours of work poured into these gardens.
I mentioned when I shared this photo of the Tulips on instagram how there is such beauty in film photography. The delayed gratification of the photo is much like a bulb we plant in fall and waits until spring to bloom.
June 30, 2019 – Market Day!
Despite our Tulips blooming right between our market days, we had lots of cool flowers hot on their heels. The feedback was positive and our momentum was gaining. That’s another lesson from Kung Fu, the more you do it, the more momentum you build to keep going. In looking forward to next year I can see that more markets will bring more momentum for us to continue sowing, planting, harvesting and creating unique arrangements for our customers.
When you start a business you hear all kinds of advice. One that I would surely heed is to start small! Keep your risks low to start. I signed up for 4 markets to see if it was a good fit. Also knowing that i’d have to leave mid-season for a family wedding, in the South of France!
July 13, 2019 – Luke and Roxane’s Wedding in the South of France
While I know I would be hard-pressed to travel to Europe mid-season, this was an event I wouldn’t have missed for the world, my brother Luke marrying Roxane.
We stayed where the wedding was held, at my sister-in-law’s family home in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. Her family has big fruit orchards, countless Rose bushes and of course, French Lavender! There is something so magical about being on a piece of land that is actively cultivated. In this case it was the stark difference of climate that stood out to me. As many in Alberta can still remember how wet and cold this summer was, venturing into the south of France was like a warm hug I had been craving all year.
The wedding was stunning, long tables set up outdoors, and a relaxed approach to the whole affair I hope I can bring back when executing weddings here. Not only do I now have a new sister, but a whole new family on the other side of the world that want us to come back and visit! What a joy!
July 28, 2019 – Market Day!
Back from Europe, I hit the ground running. With Canadian Flowers Week and a market in the week I returned home, there was little time to reminisce because we were back at it. Even late July our cool flowers are still playing major roles in our bouquets.
August 18, 2019 – Market Day!
This was a unique market for us. As mentioned above, we had only signed up for 4 markets, but due to a last minute cancellation we hopped on another. In that moment no one realized that there was already another local flower grower and vendor scheduled, Kari from Golden Hour Floral. It was amazing that instead of awkwardly avoiding each other and looking at the whole day as a competition we banded together to create a local flower block at the market. I would love to do this again next season for a special spotlight. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have our market become a hot spot for local flower lovers to come and see all kinds of beauty coming out of the farms around here?
August was also pivotal for us because our business got a retail home base, at the Blue Jar Antique Mall. This mall is located on Stony Plain Rd. and 152st. For us this is a great way to have a spot for our customers to access our goods that isn’t my actual home, but that is still in the neighbourhood. I really tried to make the fresh flower thing happen down there, but has more luck with bulbs, seeds, and housewares. Maybe 2020 will prove a more receptive flower market within the Antique mall.
September 1, 2019 – Market Day!
Our final market of the season, and talk about going out with a bang! Despite being the last of 2019, it was the first market that we sold out of our bunches! We have so much gratitude for all of our supporters
September 16, 17, 2019 – Sustainable Flowers Workshop – Calgary AB
I saw that Becky Feasby of Prairie Girl Flowers in Calgary was planning a workshop event and something was pulling me towards it. The magnitude of the waste free installations led by foam-free advocate Tobey Nelson, who specializes in weddings and events, has already made a huge impact in the industry, and also the passion and commitment to the sustainability movement I’d seen from Becky. These two are a dynamic and hilarious duo who are amazing teachers and i’m so glad I listened to my intuition and took the plunge to follow this path towards the kind of flower business I want to be!
It wasn’t only florists that were there, but also a strong contingent of flower farmers as well. Two very inspiring farmers each taught a segment of the workshop. Heather of Boreal Blooms and Clara from Meadow and Thicket. These two are very generous and interesting educators, sharing their field notes and interviews on various flower farming topics on their podcast “The Sustainable Flowers Podcast“. It was great to get the chance to meet them and learn a few lessons from them as well.
Each teacher brought their fountains of knowledge gathered on their own paths and created a feast for the imagination. With sustainability at the forefront we discussed soil science, no-till methods, fungicides, pricing, and dreaming big with the building of a larger than life installation.
Photos of the event that follow are by Ian M. Greggory.
The community that was summoned to this event was vibrant and eclectic, and already I can feel the support for the sustainable flower movement growing more momentum. That word again, momentum. Despite the work involved in changing perceptions, I want to be a part of this movement. Sometimes we feel pulls or pushes towards something and while we can sometimes feel like an outsider it’s important to follow your heart’s lead. I know now that this workshop was a pivotal moment in my career and I’m so thankful I trusted enough to get myself there. I look forward to following along with the other visionaries on their journeys and to the next time we will gather in the name and spirit of sustainable flowers.
I AM Gathering, October 18, 19, 20th – Banff Springs Hotel
Sometimes we plant seeds that don’t bloom for a couple years. I started helping out with the I AM Gatherings at their inception, in 2017, in Saskatoon, SK. This community has been a valuable asset to my spiritual growth and my professional development. Kathy was quick to note how my energy shifted when telling her about the seeds I had purchased for my very first season growing flowers. She has definitely been a spiritual teacher for me and continues to open my eyes to the limitless possibilities of dreaming big. The event has grown over the years, and this year’s event that took place at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta. The speakers were Neale Donald Walshe, Nova Whitman, Anne Berube and Dandipani, getting the chance to listen to their messages was an amazing opportunity and learning is something I will always jump to!
After seeing what I had helped build at the Sustainable Flowers Workshop, Kathy asked if I could execute something like that for the event. Determined to bring local bounty to her event I accepted the challenge eagerly. Freshly armed with new tools for sustainable practices I set out to source some local flowers for the event in the mountains. Luckily for me, Jen over at Farm Fresh Florals, in Sunnybrook, Alberta, built a beautiful greenhouse and has a plethora of gorgeous Dahlias for us to use. It was such a cool feeling to be able to bring Alberta flowers to one of the most beautiful places in the whole province. Some of the other cuts we brought with us, Rosehips from Thelma at Goodland Farms, Wheat from Deborah, my mother in law, and Birch bark from the North Country Commune. We did source in some BC cedar with help from Nora at Bud and Bloom.
What this project showed me was the power of community, dreaming big and being open to opportunities. An important lesson i’ve learned from Kathy is how to listen when the opportunity knocks and building up the courage to open the door.
Setting Sights on 2020
2019 was a defining year for our business. We took some leaps and made some traction. One of my goals for next season is to not let the whole year pass by without taking the time to check in here on the blog and be left to retrospect the entire year. So much happened this year that a few other parts will just get touched on briefly here in my conclusion. This year was my first time attending an ASCFG meeting, in St. Louis Missouri, at the Urban Buds city farm. I also got to check out the Missouri Botanical gardens with my dear friend Ashley Hohman. This year I turned 30, and also opened a booth at the Blue Jar Antique Mall, booth 4, where we sell books, housewares, and tried selling fresh bunches there too. I have nothing but gratitude for all the adventures, teachers and experiences from this past season. I can’t wait to see what the next year, the next season, and the next decade will look like!
We wish you all the best this new year and we look forward to another life defining season!
Always In Love and Fantasy.