A u-pick flower farm...in a natural country setting perfectly situated near water complete with pergola and a fountain... Flower farming in Alberta is becoming more and more about giving people an experience, making the most of what can be grown within the limits of our seasons, all while using a sustainable farming approach. Jen and her husband have worked hard to create the beautiful space they call Farm Fresh Florals, learn more about it below, be inspired and then plan to visit...
Laura: What is the nature of your farm and how did you get started?
Jen: Farm Fresh Florals is a local, seasonal, cut flower farm in Leduc County, Alberta. After great debate on what we could do with our 40 acre property, I stumbled upon Instagram feeds of flower farmers popping up all over the US and Canada. In the fall/winter of 2016/2017 we began researching the feasibility of farming cut flowers in our northern climate, I was accepted into the Master Gardener Program at the University of Alberta Botanic gardens and we tilled our first beds in the spring of 2017!
Laura: What are some of the things you love about your type of flower farm?
Jen: This is our 3rd season growing cut flowers, our first season was a bit of a trial both on growing and testing interest in the local market. We sold our bouquets through pop ups in Edmonton and attended the White Barn Market. I found the harvest, transport and set up quite stressful and quickly realized that in addition to growing beautiful blooms, I love educating, inspiring and talking about all plants with anyone who will reciprocate! Over the winter we planned layout and construction to set up our farm for a U Pick and a place to experience growing, gardening and the beauty of nature all around us. We open our farm to the public not only for U Pick but also a unique event space rental and photography venue. We hope to continue to grow and develop our gardens as teaching tools and inspiration on what gardening can look like here in central Alberta.
Laura: What are some of the challenges you have come across, overcome, or continue to try find a solution to, when it comes to growing flowers in Alberta?
Jen: Mother Nature is always in the drivers seat, we are just along for the ride! Last season our gardens were hit hard with a hail storm near the end of August, and as we had just begun to recover we were hit with an early frost and snow fall that took out the gardens for good. Our season is already short, so when it is taken early we needed to find a way to beat Mother Nature, so we built a greenhouse last fall. The greenhouse will allow us to protect some of our crop from weather and extend our season well into the fall. We hope to have a second greenhouse up in the next year or so to ensure even greater amounts of protected florals. Flower Farming is having a resurgence all over North America, and I am extremely keen on educating consumers about the option of purchasing local flowers. Similar to the challenge of local food suppliers, local means seasonal. There are many misconceptions on what we can grow and when our blooms are available. Having guests to our farm is just another way to educate the importance of local in all aspects of making purchasing decisions.
Laura: Is there a specific time in your u-pick flower season that is your favourite? Or a time that is particularly perfect for people interested in the u-pick flower experience?
Jen: I love the seasonality of flowers. Our long harsh winters make spring something to be savored. In spring the hints of green emerging from the gardens in the form of tulips, allium and daffodils literally make me jump with joy! It never ceases to amaze me how these plants make it through our winters. There is also something especially nostalgic about spring blooms, tulips, peonies and flowering branches being particular favorites of mine. We do sell bouquets and arrangements in our shoulder seasons, however the U Pick is at its height of bloom mid-summer through fall when the annual blooms are in full swing. Depending on weather we will open sometime in July and close after our first hard frost.
Laura: Can you share a bit about what people can expect with the upcoming opening of your “Silo Farm store”?
Jen: Yes! The SILO Farm Store will have beverages and snacks, vintage and antique treasures, as well as local maker and artisan wares. We will be doing a call for vendors soon!
Laura: When you live on a flower farm, do you have ways of making sure you appreciate the beauty around you and not just see it as work? How do you make time to rest in the busy summer season?
Jen: This is a great question! And one that I recently just asked myself! I purchased a fabulous book called A Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin. Through each season Tovah encourages mindfulness of all of the amazing things happening in the garden through the senses. I have incorporated this mindfulness even in the most tedious of tasks, the rhythm of weeding, stopping to listen to the frogs singing, the smell of the soil, the crispness of the ground in the morning...It is easy to find yourself caught up in our short, hectic and intense season but if you stop and smell the roses (per se) it really makes you appreciate all that is happening around you. I also really enjoy gardening and find it restful and peaceful, ending the day watering the gardens is a stress relief. As much as we aren’t able to get away from the farm in the summer, we are creating a space that we love to live and work at.
Laura: It seems like you are really turning your farm into a destination/experience; how can people find out about current events or what’s happening and what are the best ways to contact you?
Jen: I am not very tech savvy…but I was able to finish our website earlier this year…it was a triumphing moment for me! The latest information can also be found on our Instagram @farmfreshflorals and Facebook pages.
There are contact forms on the website, messaging through Facebook and Instagram and I can be reached on my cell at 780-445-8134
Also found on the Local County website
photo credit: brzphotography.com