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?
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.
What I learned: 2 full weddings in a weekend (which I did a number of times, and twice did 3) IS NOT FOR ME. It was exhilarating to get all those bookings, and I’m really, really bad at saying no, especially when someone is telling me they love my work, but when it came down to it, 2 full service weddings over 2 days was too much. I had help, yes, which was wonderful, but for my not-young body it was very physically taxing, and the enjoyment and artistry and feeling that I was doing something beautiful and fun and fulfilling (which usually is how I’m feeling when designing a wedding) wasn’t true 100% of the time. Or even 75% of those particular days.
I learned that doesn’t work for me. Which is good. That’s why I took on those bookings (plus, obviously, problems with boundaries.) I also learned that while I valued all the work that my helpers did for me in 2019, I don’t really want to expand much beyond what I did in 2019. The amount of help I had, especially when it came to the farm tasks, was just about right. Same with weddings, but I’m going to reign it all in next year. Yes to great help! No to feeling overwhelmed!
Another thing I learned: I LOVE my roadside cart! And I love the little patch of flowers I trialed last year down in the spot by the road, where my cart is located. Being out there on an early summer morning, picking armloads of zinnias and sunflowers, listening to a podcast, watching the packs of bikers zoom by, and occasionally getting one to wave or say hi – this is such a meditative and pleasant task. Making those bouquets are pure pleasure. I use what I have, as much as I have. I don’t have to go anywhere or buy anything – it’s all me. So ideally I will do more of that in the coming year. We are going to renovate or rethink the cart so it can hold more and is a bit more polished. I’m going to cultivate relationships with local places to sell these kind of arrangements. More of this, please!
Some other things I learned:
Dahlias need sunlight. If you move them to a spot that doesn’t get enough sunlight you will not get enough blooms! Expansion is only a good thing if what you plant in your new beds will thrive in your new beds.
Communication when it comes to weddings is key. Last year every wedding reminded me that for most of my couples this was the first time they were doing it, so more information, especially about process, timing, etc., was better. I really only had one communication mishap the whole summer, but it was enough so that I rethought some basic procedures that to me seemed obvious, but clearly needed a new look.
I went to two conferences this year: the Flowering in the North Conference in Portland, ME, in the winter, and in November, the Making a Profit Selling Cut Flowers conference in Nashville. Both were fantastic! Conferences are invigorating! Also maybe a little too inspiring, leading me to try new things that I have no market for, and which take my attention from other tasks. Which definitely happened. But as with everything, I lived and I learned.
Lots of weddings = little time for artwork. I miss my art! In January I’m going to spend time with my pressed flowers in a more meaningful way, and I’d love for that work to become equal to my wedding work in terms of time on task, focus, and even sales.
It’s odd to distill an entire year down to a few paragraphs and a few images, but it’s also useful to think about what worked and what didn’t. As a ‘solopreneur’ I need to take time to reflect. How else is a business to grow sustainably?