"In March this year, we started our flower farm. I have been longing to get to this stage in my life for a very long time. This place where I am today wasn’t even in my consciousness a few years back and it definitely was never my plan to run a flower farm with my family let alone manage a farm holiday let and a workshop, with children and dogs running around," says Aizel Finch of Yalham Hayes Farm in Flowers from the Farm.
I was born and raised in Manila, capital city of The Philippines, and while most individuals like me would have grandparents in towns outside the city, both sets of my grandparents also lived in the capital. Our home, built just behind my father’s parents, was tiny - possibly the size of my kitchen in the UK. It didn’t have a garden, not even a small one, so my childhood experience of flower growing was limited. My grandma had a small porch where she kept pot plants. Most pots were recycled large powdered milk cans which would eventually rust and disintegrate. There were a few orchids too, grown in coconut husks hung on a damp wall, and watered every night.
Manila has no winter and an average temperature of 25C all year. It gets warmer in March with temperatures up to 38C (though it gets hotter now in certain areas during the height of summer).
Coming from an ordinary background, I had to work really hard to get into the University of the Philippines (UP). Only 10-15% of applicants get a place as it is one of the top universities in the country and is hugely oversubscribed. To this day, I’m so honoured to have been among the privileged that got in (and got out). I started out on a Pharmacy course with a view to completing a medical degree but two years into my course, I realised that it would take a very long time to complete my medical studies and I just didn’t have that luxury, so I changed to study Communications instead.
In UP, I realised education was an equaliser. I sat next to many wealthy students in class. One had a bodyguard that followed us in another car when we went to a friend’s house to swim! Another had a mobile phone the size of a backpack and her monthly phone bill was three times what my parents earned a month. But in UP, we (sometimes) queued for the same food in the school canteen. We took the same exams. I secretly tried to outdo them in schoolwork just to prove a point to myself — they may have been rich but I was brighter. (I hope I don’t carry that angst now.)