A common theme that has cropped up lately in my research and discussion with flower farmers is the difficult reality of making a living off of farming and the wear and tear of the incredibly long work weeks that come with it. I am not afraid of hard work and I have no desire to become filthy rich, but I also wonder if there is a way to go about this without my life's theme becoming "Struggle."
Last month I went to the ASCFG grower's conference in San Jose, which exposed me to more flower farmers in the Western part of the country whom I am now excited to know about.
One of these farmers, Tom Wilkstrom of Happy Trowels Farm in Utah, closed the conference with a story about his father, his father's father, and his family's history of farming. It was a story about loss and passion and the unavoidable pull of the land. He closed with the line, "Farming is Epic." Not as in "that harvest was epic bro!" but in the most literal sense of the word: Relating to a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
Farmers are heroes.
These are smart people who are breaking their backs earning a living. What I'm hoping to figure out is the right plan for me - for my business goals and for the needs of my little family.
To further this goal, I finally made a trip home to PA to learn from the woman at the top of my list of heroes, Jennie Love.
It was a beautiful, warm April day and I had butterflies in my stomach as I pulled into the dirt drive of the Loven'Fresh Farm, tucked away in a hilly wooded area near Chestnut Hill, PA.
The morning started with coffee, after which we quickly headed into her greenhouse, where I was particularly excited to check out her germination chamber. Next we walked her perennial beds, her overwintered annual beds, her hoop houses, and her low tunnels. I scribbled copious notes in a little notebook she'd handed out that morning and asked her every last question I could think of.
The day flew by, and when the hot sun dipped lower in the sky and it came time to leave, I gave Jennie and my new compadres a big squeeze before heading off in my rental car back to my Mom's. As I plopped my notebook on the seat next to me and pulled out of the farm drive, I felt two things - grateful and capable.