Flowers Extraordinaire!!

I just returned from an incredibly productive 3 week internship on Harvest Moon Flower Farm, south-central Indiana’s finest flower farm.  I learned about cultivating flowers, proper harvest and post-harvest techniques, bouquet making, the ins-and-outs of wedding florals, diverse flower marketing, and good business practice.  I first learned about HMFF from Anna Dale, a Warren Wilson College friend who grew up farming flowers with her mother,  Linda Chapman, the farmer and head bouquet maker extraordinaire.  I was constantly amazed at Linda’s ability to keep a million things in her head at once.  She graciously shared her experiences and knowledge with me as I furiously tried to write it all down or capture it on camera.  In exchange for sweat and work, she gave me the basis for a successful flower farming business here in central NC.  I am so thankful for her mentor-ship and gift of knowledge that she gave to me during her busiest time of the year.  At the end of my internship, Linda helped me start 950 flower starts to put in the ground here in NC for Spring Forth Farm’s first wedding gig in October!

Harvest Moon Flower Farm
Morning at Harvest Moon Flower Farm, Spencer, Indiana
Harvest Moon Flower Farm
Harvest Moon Flower Farm
A dynamic group of hard-working women (left to right): Kuenzi Wiswall, Megan Leiss , Linda Chapman, Anna Dale (also not pictured, Ben West)

These are my first two bucket of bouquets for the local farmers market.  Entering into the “bouquet barn” to join the crew of very experienced women was, needless to say, intimidating, but very instructional.

Megan's first basket of five bouquets
Megan’s first basket of five bouquets
More of Megan's bouquets
More of Megan’s bouquets
Bouquets of flowers ready for market
Bouquets of flowers ready for market

Rain, Rain.

This summer has been the wettest in memory. May was cool and damp. Then June thunderstorms dumped ten inches of rain – seven more than normal. And the rain has not let up in the first weeks of July. Severe thunderstorms have caused damaging flash floods, and the wet weather has hit NC farmers hard, causing major crop losses.

Farmers must just make make the best of the weather, and we’re no different. Clearing land for Spring Forth Farm has been set back. The trees that grew in or next to the field are gone, but their stumps remain. It was too wet for the tractor last week, and it is too wet again tomorrow. So for now the land looks like this, empty but not clear. We’re praying for dry weather so we can get to work. In the meantime, we’ve ordered some of the seed, we’re collecting materials and equipment, and we’re continuing to work out some of the business details that are part of the start-up process.

The land, mostly cleared, with a few stumps to pull out and some tilling to do.
The land, mostly cleared, with a few stumps to pull out and some tilling to do.

Many Hands Plant a Farm

Those of you who know us know that we really value community.

One thing that has been great about starting Spring Forth Farm has been the many ways in which it has been a community venture.

First, there is the land-sharing arrangement with Wayne and Deborah and Orchard Hill Children’s School. We are sharing the cost and work of clearing the land, and in exchange we have a place to start our farm, they get some produce, and after a couple years, they will have well-established garden beds to expand their own garden into. Everybody works, everybody wins together.

Our friends and families have also been overwhelmingly supportive, helping us meet many of our start-up needs with minimal start-up cost. Our families, friends, and colleagues have given us a weed-eater, gas cans, a cooler for storing produce, and miscellaneous hand tools. Local farmers, including Maple Spring Gardens and Elysian Fields Farm have sold us supplies at cost, helping us add another farm to the growing network of small farms that make this area such a rich place to grow.

We relish the ways we have been able to participate in the community life of other local farms. For example, we love visiting Mike and Brenda Heindl at Emmaus Farm, and helping stoke the wood-fired kiln for Brenda’s Liberty Stoneware. We are committed to making Spring Forth Farm a positive contribution to the life of the community. We are committed to donating 5% of our sales, as well as donations of farm products, to a local food bank, helping to ensure that everyone in our community has access to food.

I don’t know if this is the case with all farms, but bringing Spring Forth Farm this far has really been an instance of community-supported agriculture. We could not exist without the support we have already received, and will continue to receive throughout the life of the farm. We are blessed that Spring Forth Farm has received such and outpouring of community support, and we look forward to finding new ways to make our farm a part of the community, too.