All tagged farmer's market
As floral design styles shift more toward natural, loose arrangements, the demand for locally grown flowers has followed. This increased demand and awareness of local flowers from florists has created an excellent opportunity for flower farmers to fill a void in the traditional market. However, the challenge is how to supply the volume needed and the convenience offered by conventional wholesalers.
If you have kept up with the local food movement over the past two decades, the term CSA has probably been something you have come in contact with. CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture, the concept of which can be interpreted in a number of ways. At its core, a CSA is a model in which the customer financially invests in a farm at the beginning of a growing season, when sales are at their lowest, and in return receives a share of the farm’s harvest once crops are coming out of the fields. Vegetable farms often use CSAs as a business model that helps pay for the upfront costs of getting crops into the ground – seeds, compost, time and labor spent of growing and maintaining crops, water and energy costs, etc.
In this episode of the Team Flower Podcast, we are chatting with Niki Irving of Flourish Flower Farm. You’ll hear about Niki’s transition to flower farming, and about how she and her husband found their farmland. We are chatting about the process of starting a small business, and some tips and tools to go about doing so.
In this video, Kelly visits Pressly Williams at her flower farm in North Carolina, Renfrow Farms. Pressly gives a tour of her farm and shares advice to new growers. She's unearthing her secret ingredient in growing flowers, and talking about her experience with growing flowers from seed as well as growing flowers from plugs.
- - Hey, it's Kelly here with Team Flower. I'm here with my friend Pressly Williams of Renfrow Flower Farm. And we're here in Matthews, North Carolina. Pressly, tell us a little bit about the farm and what was here before and just a little bit about you and your story. - Okay, so this property that we're on is about nine acres and it used to be a farm back in the early 1900's when Matthews was kind of first growing as a little, teeny weeny town out in the outskirts of Charlotte. And the Renfrow family, which is what our farm is named after, lived here and every one of these houses along here had deep lots with big gardens, so this was a big garden, or a small farm, or whatever you want to call it. And then they owned a hardware store in the downtown strip of Matthews, which my family now owns, but come to the mid-1900's-- - So, not your family but, kind of caring on the name. - No, exactly. - And all that. Okay, great. - So, the Renfrow family died out. There was no one left of them in their direct line, so my dad bought the business from the last one in the 80's. And so come to the 1940's or so, this land had grown up, it was all in trees and when we got the land in 2010, we decided to turn it back into a farm. When the last member of the Renfrow's passed away, he left this property to the hardware store, which is what my dad owns and where I work. So, I work both here and there. - And that's just right down the road. - Yep, walking distance right down here. And so we do a whole lot of gardening, so I knew I wanted to be gardener, always, we had a big garden at my parent's house and I was not interested in flowers at all when I started this farm, but got into it when I designed my own flowers for my wedding. - Oh, okay, yeah. - Basically, we have just worked really hard to get this back to what it used to be, which was a farm, even with taking out the trees and doing the drainage and putting up a seven foot tall deer fence around the whole property 'cause there are a lot of deer here. - Yeah. - And yeah, so. - Yeah. - That's where we are now. It's year five. - Okay, that's awesome. So this did back in day used to be used for farming. Did you have to do a lot, once you got into it and you started liked digging in the soil, did you have to do a lot of amendments to it? Was the texture of the soil nice? What kind of nutrients did you need to put back into it? - Yeah, certain ones, we could tell had been farmed years and years ago, but it had been a long time. - How can you tell? - It was not just hard clay completely. - Okay. - So partly that and partly back in the back, we could still see the terracing that farms used to be naturally terraced around the property, so that-- - Now was that for water? - Drainage. - Drainage, okay. - So that it would not pool up and just, yeah for water stuff, so we could see that and the ground had just enough organic matter in it still, so what we do though is we use composted leaves, so a lot of this is composted leaves that we put on top of the soil and mix in and that is our secret weapon. - That's the secret ingredient. - Secret ingredient. - Yeah, it's so fun talking with all the different farmers that we've been interviewing. Everybody has their own special secret weapon. - And that's ours, free leaves from landscapers in the town that suck them up in different places and dump 'em in big piles at the back of the farm. And we let them rot down and mix them in. - Yeah. - And free compost. - Yeah, that's awesome. - So that would probably help keep down on some of the weeds like we were talking. - Weeds. - Mmhm. - Mmhm. - We were talking - It's a good - the other day about it - weed suppressant. Yeah, we do that, we mulch with it in the rows and in between the rows and then when we pull up the zinnias or something, then we'll till those leaves in - Those leaves in. - And so then they're as compost for the next year and then we just re-mulch the next year. - Yeah, that's awesome. And a lot of the things, now this, this area, we're just standing in one of four places. So, there's like another area over here and then across the road, there's like two more behind us, two big kind of larger fields. And most of them, they all look like they're in full sun. So, you've got a lot of plants in here that love to be in sun all the time. - Yes, yes. - Tell us a little bit though, we have had a very, hot year, lots of sun, very little rain. What are some things that you tried to grow this year that didn't go so well? - So, I did not know, just being my second year growing dahlias that they like a lot of water and not so much heat and we had almost no rain and we don't have a well here yet so we could not irrigate. It was just not something that I could do on city water very easily, or just the time it would take without having an irrigation system set up. It just was too much, so they have just now started blooming and here we are, early to mid-October, - It's like time for, yeah, frost is ready to hit. - they're almost finished. So that is one thing that needs a whole lot more water than I could supply. - Yeah, they love that swing between like warm and cool and kind of going back and forth and we just didn't have that, - We were - we didn't have that this year. - 95 plus every day for three months. - Was there anything like, vegetables included, that really thrived in that environment? - We had really good soil for tomatoes, so our tomatoes were wonderful this year and sunflowers have done really well, but there were even some vegetables that didn't like the heat. - Yeah. - Like green beans don't make when it's that hot. - Right. - So we just had plenty of losses, but plenty of successes as well to balance it out. - Yeah. - Yeah, that's good and tomatoes are your faves, so, - They're my favorite. - that was good, it would have been really sad if the tomatoes. - Yes, tomatoes are my favorite and my customer's favorite. - Yeah. - So, that's our biggest crop. - Yeah, tell everybody about your fun tomato day that you have here. - Yeah, once a year, in August, we will be hosting a tomato sandwich day where people come and we just provide the tomatoes and the white bread and both kinds of mayonnaise, so they don't have - Both kinds. - to choose between Duke's and Hellmann's. They get the choice, they don't have to just have one of them and we just let them make a sandwich and hang out on the farm. - Yeah. - We did the first one this year and people just loved it, so it's going to be our annual tradition from now on. - Yeah, that awesome and it's great way too that whenever there's people who want to come and visit the farm, but you have to, there's a lot of work to do on a farm. - Yes. - So, if you can kind of consolidate and make efficient the time that you get to spend with the customers and they get to actually come and experience what you do on a daily basis, it helps to keep your schedule clean so that you can keep moving through with all your things, - Exactly. - which is awesome. - Exactly. - I think that's such a super fun idea and who doesn't love a tomato and mayonnaise white bread sandwich? - Nobody doesn't. Yeah. - Yeah, that's fantastic. - We had some people who had never had one before. - Oh, really? - And it was their first experience. - Oh, wow. - It was great. - Yeah, I think they're great. Tomatoes are wonderful. You'll have to tell me a couple of varieties. I grew a couple this year, but mmm, I didn't like fall in love with the varieties that I had. - Oh, yeah. - So I need to pick some like, better varieties. - Okay, I can, I can help you with that. - You'll help me with that, cool. - Okay, what are some other things, What zone are we in? - This is kind of zone 7b, or 8a, I'm not totally sure which one it is, I think it has changed recently, but zone seven or eight. - Okay, seven or eight. - We typically have our last frost around tax day and then our first frost around Halloween, so that's a pretty long growing season. - Yeah, April through October, that's awesome. Are you, a lot of the things that you're growing, since you do have a longer growing season, you can probably start a lot more from seed than someone who's in like a more northern climate with a shorter growing season, so is most of what you have here things that you start from seed early in the spring or are you going to try to over winter anything this year? What are you, since you do have like a lighter winter, are you going to try to over winter anything? - Great question. So, so far everything I've done is pretty much been from seed, but excuse me, I am trying some plugs this fall and in the spring. I've realized some things from seed are just way too hard and may take, grow too slowly and are just not really worth the time. I'd rather pay to have all 200 of them come in a plug tray and all be ready - And they're all germinating - rather than having so few germinate. - Sure. - So, I'm definitely still learning the seed growing, but certain things like zinnias and stuff, I can direct seed those, I don't need a plug for them because they grow so fast, I can do four, five, or six plantings if I feel like it of zinnias. - Yeah. - So certain hot weather things are easy. - Tell me, tell me about that succession planting with the zinnias 'cause I've thought about that too. Would it be good to part way through, like pull some things out and redo - Yes. - 'cause I have just a very limited amount of space. - Yeah, so if you want to have more blooms. These were probably, I think these were my fourth or fifth planting right here. - Okay. - So my first three are already long gone. - Gone. - There's already broccoli heading up in the same spot where some of those were. - Oh, okay, okay. - So, I just, when they start, stop producing large enough quantity, I just mow 'em down and start over - Start over. - And then these are just here 'cause frost is coming and they look pretty and not really harvesting these specific ones any more much, - But don't want to get rid of those, just 'cause I'm about to not have flowers for the winter. - Yeah. They're there to, for the birds and-- - Yes. - The birds and the butterflies. - Yes. - Oh, that's awesome, so what's the latest date, if you want to do late planting of zinnias, like how close to that last frost date, can you do to actually have something that's worth? - I'd say probably 70 to 75 days. - Okay. - Typically, so these might have been early August, but yeah, I think you could do it all the way to mid-August, and last year we didn't really have a real frost until Thanksgiving so, totally depends on the year. - Yeah, got it. - That's awesome. - Well, it's obviously, it's fall here right now. What are some of the, what's your, are there anything, are there any like showstoppers for fall? Vegetables, fruits included, you can count them all. - Oh okay, so I've got them heirloom mums planted for the first time, so those are budding up. I've never grown them before, so those will be blooming soon. - Oh, fun. - There's a few back there and a whole lot in the next field, so those even if it frosts, I'll cover those and see, see how they do. - See how they do. - But, broccoli and collards are our two main vegetable crops. - Oh, okay. - People stand in line waiting for our brocolli and then there's several barbecue places in town that buy our collards in large quantities, so I can't grow enough of either of them. Not possible. - Yeah, that's awesome. What about in springtime? - So, I just got my anemones and ranunculus corms in, so I'm going to pre-sprout those and plant those within a month. And last year they started, some of them started blooming around Christmas, so that was a little early, 'cause it was so warm, but I'll be excited to grow them. - Yeah, well they come up super early, so whenever it's been like, it's kind of like exciting thing to go out there and see what you've got out there. Do you have any hellebores here? I know, that's more of like - Not yet. - a perennial kind of thing and it's a big investment to get started with those, but-- - I'm working towards those. My grandmother and my aunt have a bunch in their yard, so I do pick those and sell those, but I haven't made my shade garden here yet. - Okay. - I've got some spots laid out, but it's a matter of getting the time. - Yeah, of course. Mom and dad got some. It's been, it was right around the time, I want to say it's been about four years now, but mom and dad just got a couple of plants and it's been amazing to see how, once you get them in, they're very low maintenance and they really take off and you know, it takes a while for the seeds each year to germinate, but now they have lots and lots and lots and lots of babies. Yeah. - Yeah. - It's a big initial investment, but they do, they kind of do their thing. - It's worth it. - They don't take a whole lot of, they come up so early, like Christmas to January, depending on what zone you're in, - Yes, so fun. - so that's always fun. - I know. - And they last for so long throughout the spring, they still had them when I went up to visit in April. - Really? - Yeah. - Nice, yeah. - Yeah, so that's a fun plant. - They're on my, on my to-plant list, for sure. - On the wish list. - Yes. - Okay, what about summer? - Oh, sunflowers are probably-- - Your fave? - My fave. In a way, just because my customers get so excited about them. - That's one of those things that people just really, there's something nostalgic about it. I don't know if like grandma always had sunflowers or what, but it - I don't know what it is. - just makes people really happy. That's awesome. - So I like to grow a lot of different things, feverfew is one of my other favorites, but probably, the showstopper that gets people really excited are the sunflowers, even if mixed in with all sorts of other, other stuff. - Yeah. - That's awesome. Well, Pressly was telling me that she takes a lot of her, this building that you see just over here to our left, is a little farm stand that she has that's open just on Tuesday's, - Tuesday's. - So, she cuts, cuts, cuts, fills everything up and it runs, I mean just a really sweet space, runs like a store in there on Tuesday's. And then on the other days of the week, you said do you take some things up to the hardware store? - Up to the hardware store. Vegetables and flowers. - Yeah, that's awesome. And then she has some really awesome visitors coming to the farm here pretty soon, the big outdoor table, farm-to-table folks that travel all over. Do you know what it's called specifically? - Outstanding in the field. - Outstanding in the field. So they do farm-to-table dinners all over, so they one that's going to be happening here on Pressly's farm this fall, which is really fun, that we're excited about. - We're excited. - And she's going to supply them with all kinds of, probably, are collards on the menu? - Yes, they are. Collards and broccoli and tomatoes and a few other farm items. - Okay, fantastic, that's awesome. - I'm excited. - So, I had asked Pressly about maybe some things that she was over wintering, so we've popped over here to the black-eyed Susan patch and she's showing me some-- - Just various different black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia's, there's a whole row of 'em, they're really small still, but, you know, they'll make it through the winter without really much coverage and look pretty rough but in the spring, they will come back to life. - They'll kind of shed those leaves and come back. What is the earliest, you know, you over winter so you have an earlier bloom, right? - Mmhm. - So about when are you going to start seeing these bud up and produce? - That's a good question. I'm thinking early June. I'm not a hundred percent sure. - Yeah, 'cause usually this is kind of fall, late summer, fall, so now just - I'll be doing some more of these same ones in the spring, so that I have two different plantings to stagger the harvest. - So, then you've got it going all season long. That's awesome. Let's walk over and take a peak at the sweet peas as well. - Yeah. - So, yeah this is our cooler. We keep our flowers or things like our pomegranates in here. - Where are those coming from? - My parents have a few trees that made about 100 pounds of pomegranates. - Oh my goodness, that's awesome. - Oh these are so beautiful. What's the variety? - This is moulin rouge, which is one of my favorites. - Oh, guys, look at these. - This is really, like, this is really black. - Yeah, let's see. - And of course they're all a little bit different. Oh, okay, so branching - And that's one all. - Yeah, look at this one. How fun is that? Mmm, love it. Nice, thanks for saving those for us. Anyway, we're over here by the sweet peas. Both Pressly and I, was this your first year for trying sweet peas? - Yeah. - Yeah, it was my first year too, we both had a similar experience where we got a few awesome blooms that smelled so good that we were just like, yes more of this, but didn't quite have it, I didn't quite have it nailed down. - Oh no, me neither, that's okay. - So we're trying again, and so she's got these. - I have some teeny ones right here. - She's got the little babies in the ground and when I went to go see Linda the other day, she had hers in the ground too. And Pressly has them growing, this is called cattle fencing over from the hardware store, so she was telling me that they had them, the smaller holes are for goats, and you know all those kinds of things, so us girls that didn't grow up anywhere near a farm are like, we just need this metal stuff It has squares, so it's really helpful to know that it's called cattle fencing. That's what she has everything growing up, and then just attached to the zip ties here, I had an arbor that I had up this year that they were growing up, and I just took, I was trying to just use stuff that I had you know, so I had chicken wire from all of the weddings, so I just ran chickenwire the whole way up, and I was attaching them to that. But I think this would work so much better, because you just have a lot more spaces, with sweet peas you really have to keep on, they don't naturally really want to attach to this in the same way that other vines do, you kind of have to like. - Weave them in a little bit. - Coax them in, but they really do need a place to climb, but cup and saucer vine, have you ever seen that? - I haven't seen that. - Oh it's so pretty, it reminds me of this that you have going on over there, but it has real sticky fingers, but the sweet peas don't have that quite as much. Anyway that's our little tidbit about sweet peas, we're trying again. - Yeah try again, who knows. - Okay we are back, Pressly is going to show was her, the dismal dahlia patch she called it, the dismal dahlia patch. - Yes I don't know how to grow everything yet, as is obvious by my fairly short and very slow blooming dahlias. - Yeah it was a real hard year to try and figure it out for sure. - There's a lot of beautiful new weave growth on them now that we have gotten cooler temperatures and rain in the past three weeks, but before that they sat there without changing size for about three months, and I didn't have a way to water them, so I just had to let them-- - Had to let them go. - So next year, trying again. - So mine are coming, but I water them a lot, I water them a lot. - I can't, I don't have time or resources. - You don't have it up here yet, no, no. Well she has them all, like at the other form that we visited, she has the conduit types with the re-bar underneath, and so a precautionary measure, well not a precautionary measure, but a purposeful measure, whenever it frosts, to see if we can get something out of the dahlia patch, - Yeah I'll let them out a little longer and cover them with plastic. - See how the weather shapes up in a month or two. - And I'll end up putting early spring bloomers in this spot, I will dig the dahlia and put them in a new spot next year, and put my anemones and ranunculus here later this fall. - Yeah awesome, Let's see, I wanted to know, what advice would you give to somebody who is kind of starting out new to growing, like what's the most important thing? - Okay to start slow and small would probably be what I would recommend, if you're not a fulltime farmer, and able to just mix the flour crops into your regular job, it's hard to come home from a 40 hour work week and be able to attend a field this size, so I would say if you're looking to start into flour farming to just start small and grow a few rows of something, or a small patch of sunflowers, and a few zinnias and just start with the annuals because those are the cheaper seeds-- - Right to see if you like it. - Smaller investment, see if you like what they do, and just build on that, rather than getting in way over your head and buying all the expensive tulip bulbs and all sorts of stuff that you're not able to justify yet. - Yeah and I feel like plants take a while to get to know them, like when we started planting the garden at home, now that first year, I knew I wasn't in tune enough with them to know that they were maybe planted in a place that had too much sun and not enough water, and then once you know to get to know your plants a little bit more, they start to tell you things, like hey mom over here, I need to move, and plants can't move themselves, especially like I have a lot of perennials, so once they're in there there really in there, and it was so interesting to me how this year I could kind of start to know them a little bit more, so starting small with a low investment, that you can just really start to observe things, like we visited a place where the soil was more alkaline in a particular area, that's not something that I would notice my first year in, but after you kind of do it for a while, you start to notice things, so you can become smarter with your choices, and smarter with growing things that are very well suited for where you are, you might see some really beautiful flower that you're just like I really want to have that, but if it's not well suited for where you are, it's going to be a frustrating process, and their is really, they are truly, in all the different places, there are really special localized things. - You can grow something special everywhere, don't be afraid to mess up, because you will mess up and have failures, and just learn from them, don't be discouraged. - I love making mistakes, I don't like making them more than once. - No but I learn well when I make one. - Yes exactly, me too, I love that. Well is there anything, Pressly next year, she's expanding a little bit more on the flower front, and she's selling to designers more next year, which I'm really excited about, any plans for, I know you've got your sweet peas over here, which designers are going to love those to be able to have, because when we grow, or when we have the sweet peas that come in that are cut from wholesale in a box or whatever, you will get the long stems, particularly when they come from Japan, that's really high tide sweet pea season for somebody like me, but what's so beautiful, and what I love so much about whenever I had my little sweet pea patch, is that you had the whole vine with it, and the scent, and just the whole experience, it was just so nice. So that's something that I'm really excited about for you and for the designers who live nearby. So anything else that you have going on that you would like to share with the viewers? - Just growing a lot of new things, I'm always adding new varieties to the list, and at least doubling the quantity every year so far. - Just double, double, double, double until you get to your optimum size. - Yeah till I've decided I've had enough, max out at a certain point but I'm not there yet. - Yeah that's good, so your website is renfrow-- - R-E-N-F-R-O-W farms, with an S, .com. - .com, okay perfect, so we'll follow along, and do you have little Instagram handle or something? - Yeah it's @Renfrowfarms. - @Renfrowfarms, okay perfect so you can follow along with Pressly's growing adventures. So all right, thank you.
In this video, Kelly shares how she thinks about creating bouquets for retail vs. bridal work using American Grown flowers.
- - We're back in the studio to put together a quick little farmer's market bouquet. I like to work one ingredient at a time, so I'm going to use five apple mint leaves, and just like when I'm creating a bridal bouquet, the apple mint leaves are giving me the shape and the structure that I'm going to use, but since the bouquets are going to be displayed in buckets, and people are walking up to them and looking down on them, the perspective that you arrange from is a little bit different than if you're doing a bridal bouquet that's going to be held here. So, I'm focusing on working, I'm just going to spiral the whole way around, and continue that with each of the ingredients that I have, celosia, and I'm working in layers because I do still want to have a little bit of ends and outs in my bouquet, and a variety of shapes and sizes. I'm going to add a little bit of cosmos in here, next. It gives me a completely different texture, really interesting. Now rather than using five, I'm just going to use three. And then I have a couple of pieces of basil we're working here, again three. Farmer's market bouquets, a lot of times you're doing, doing 'em all and doing 'em real quick, and you have a whole bunch to make, so if you can get yourself lined up, and you've got your pattern that you're working in, it's really easy to move quickly through the placement of the flowers. Last, but not least, I have zinnias, and these are our big, these are our big focal moment, and they're great because they're flat on top, and they have that nice face that's going to look up at all the passersby. Going to put the three smaller ones in, and then my three larger ones. That little bit of basil adds nice fragrance. Something, too, about farmer's market bouquets that are a little different than bridals, I think sometimes is that they're looking for something that's very bright and cheery, so color is very important in those types of settings, something that's very eye-catching and that people can see from far away, something that draws them in and over to your table. Made a lot of bouquets on the sidewalk last week. I'm just with some leftover flowers that I had from the workshop and the number one request was I want all colors, so it's different selling on the street than it is for bridals, so perhaps you're a wedding florist and not a farmer, but you want to do a pop-up shop or something like that, it's something to consider. It's so funny, some of the first bouquets I made whenever I started work for my friend that was a flower farmer, Mary Ellen, and she said, "No, really Kelly, like the first person "who comes up and buys flowers for his wife, "like he will want a really bright bouquet," and I was like, "Really?" 'Cause I'm the lady who wants the all-white bouquet, or something that's monochromatic, and sure enough, there I was at the market, and a man comes up, and he wanted the one with all the colors , and so I'd be curious to know what your experiences are, what your experiences are in that regard, since wow. I'm just going to give this a little clip here, tough to do, tough to do that with one hand There we go. So this is just a simple butcher's paper, and you can get it that it's wax side, a little bit water resistant, which is a little bit of water resistance, which is nice, and then also having this stand that you can tear from, I think, is really helpful as well. All kinds of ways that you can wrap, you're going to find the one that works the best for you and for your business, coordinates with the look of what you're going for. I have this cute little stand with some twine that I'll take with me when I do the little popups, but if you're doing farmer's market, you might want to get some clear sleeves, or you might want to have little baggies with water that you can have them sent home in, or something like that but that is up to you, but whenever I'm doing little sidewalk bouquets, that's what I like to do . There you go! Thanks for watching, and for taking a little tour through my seed patch.