sunflowers

2020 in Review

2020 was weird. I’m going to assume that all of you have been going through it, too, so I won’t summarize the massive impact covid has had on all aspects our lives last year, but for my little farm it basically boils down to two main phases:

PHASE ONE of 2020: ALL IS LOST AND THIS IS GOING TO SUCK! The weddings got cancelled, changed, and moved, so I was certain that I would make no money in 2020. I started my farm in earnest 4 years ago and within 2 years it was clear that wedding florals would be the best way forward for me in terms of a sustainable business model. The year – 2020 – that I thought was going to be a break-out (meaning I’d make a decent salary and be able to invest in the final bit of infrastructure I needed) was sure to be a dud. The buzz in the flower farmer groups was that we were in for it and as nonessential workers everything would have to be shut down, no one would buy flowers, and for many farms this was the end of the road. There was a lot of scared talk, particularly from farms who had several employees and who were agro-tourism destinations.

AND

PHASE TWO: IT DIDN’T SUCK AFTER ALL. The community came out for me, I continued to grow, and while some of my income was gone from weddings, more of my income came by other means. In fact, financially things are ahead of last year (though probably not where I would have been) AND it was a great year for learning, thinking, growing, and connecting. And I got my infrastructure. I increased planting, I had a lot of failure (per usual)…and I had some really great help. I am very, very thankful that I am tiny, this year more than ever. I’m especially thankful that I don’t have big loans for land or equipment or space. The stress that I’ve had has been largely based on my own physical limitations and the need to respond to the changing market. If anything, my business has grown this year. So 2021 should be very interesting!

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Farm, flowers, and work work work work work work…2019 in review

2019, for me, was a year of work! Which is not a bad thing! If you’re doing work you love, you’re hardly working, am I right?

Maybe.

We built a studio! It has been so lovely to have heat in the winter and a/c in the summer. After living in this for 9 months it sure doesn’t look like this any more! I’ve managed to fill it up and already wish I had double the space. It’s a huge improvement over my shed!

This was a year of exponential growth here at Passalongs Farm. I almost tripled my wedding work. I more than tripled my growing area. I built a studio that had electricity, air conditioning and heat!!  I stopped doing farmers’ markets (mostly) but doubled the flowers I sold by the road. I hired people to help me! (That was a big step.) I put more money into my farm, but bought more product elsewhere. I started a reflowering project, where I re-made flowers from weddings into small bouquets for folks in local nursing homes. I went to two growers’ conferences. I worked. I worked a lot. I learned as much as I worked.

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No floral foam for me! An environmental and sustainable guarantee.

Floral garland made with no foam. Photo by me.

I started in this business as a home gardener. For years before I owned Passalongs Farm or made a single wedding bouquet, I tended large perennial gardens, tried to grow veggies, and worked at a farmers’ market, where I fell in love with farmers and farm culture. Personally, I’ve always recycled, cooked from scratch as much as possible, and tried to reduce waste. I’m thrifty, environmentally conscious – oh, and happen to be partnered up with a husband whose business is energy efficiency in all forms. We are not as green as some, but greener than most.

When I started creating floral designs beyond simple bouquets I was astonished at the amount of waste there is in this business. An example: if I buy 24 roses at our local wholesaler, not only have those roses traveled from who knows where (Central America or Colombia, likely) and have been refrigerated for who knows how long (3 weeks?) but they come wrapped in lots and lots of packaging. 24 roses from the wholesaler are wrapped in layers of paper, cardboard, and finally plastic, then my wholesaler wraps all the flowers up in more paper or puts them back in their waxed shipping boxes.

Contrast that with flowers I buy from local farms: unwrapped, maybe with a rubber band holding them in bunches, transferred from their buckets to my buckets.

Contrast that with flowers I grow myself in my permaculture beds: I simply walk out my door and cut them. Yes, there were costs and fossil fuels and shipping involved, depending what it is I’m cutting, but there’s no packaging to throw away or recycle.

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Who knew? 2018 in review!

photo by Time Bandit Photography

Last night I was at a New Year’s Eve party with friends I hadn’t seen in person for a couple of years. We moved to Massachusetts in 2015, and so while most my North Carolina friends and I stay in touch via social media, many of them I usually only see once a year, if that.

Here’s the cool thing, y’all: every single one of them told me how beautiful my flowers were, how much pleasure they got out of seeing the bouquets, and many of them also said: WHO KNEW? Who knew you could do that? Who knew you had that business in you?

I didn’t. I hadn’t. But guess what? I did and I do!

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Putting the farm to bed for the winter…

October is kind of a bittersweet month, no pun on bittersweet, that gorgeous, noxious, invasive vine intended!


October means frost, which means the end of most of my flowers, including the dahlias, ageratum, and zinnias that populated so many of my fall-themed bouquets and arrangements.

October means the end of my summer farmer’s market.

October means I only have a few more weeks to make sure everything I want to overwinter has its best chance of making it. This means lots of digging, planting the stragglers, mulching, snipping, and covering.

October means apples and pears the various jams and butters I make.

October means wildcrafting wreath making supplies and dried bits and pieces for winter bouquets.

October means planning for the late fall and winter craft fairs and markets.

And this October means getting my 4-season store open for business! Which is a beast of a different sort!