US: New farmer growing cut flowers into a business

Four years ago, the Warrenton area women’s husband died of liver cancer, leaving her to care for their three young children. Rebecca and Ian Bracewell, 49, lived in Tacoma, Wash., at the time of his death. “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do and was thinking about moving back to Virginia,” said Mrs. Bracewell, 39. “I had lived here for a little while when I was younger.”

Jokingly, Mrs. Bracewell told her father, Dave Williams, that if he bought her a farm, she would return to Virginia. “So he did,” she recalled with a laugh. “Then it was, ‘OK, now what are we going to do with it’?” Weighing the land’s potential business uses, Mrs. Bracewell concluded that the 26 acres along Green Meadows Road just south of Warrenton wouldn’t be large enough to support a cattle operation and that she had no interest in growing vegetables.

“So, I said I love flowers. I know that the flower industry is kind of a ‘thing’.” A federal government contractor, Mr. Williams told his daughter to put together a business plan.

Mrs. Bracewell and her mother Wendy Williams, 64, did just that. In late 2018, they launched All Things Farm’s flower operation, which offers more than two dozen spring, summer and fall varieties through its website, Facebook page and Instagram, two area CSAs and a co-operative that supplies mostly designers and florists.

While her father quietly had doubts about a flower business, “it’s actually been pretty successful,” Mrs. Bracewell said. Though in foreclosure for five years and neglected, the farm came with valuable “infrastructure” — an insulated 4,000-square-foot barn that she uses to grow flowers from seed and a 7,000-square-foot greenhouse — that saved the family time and additional expense.

In 2019, Mrs. Bracewell estimated the flower business’s first-year cost at $5,000 — mostly for plugs, seeds, compost and fertilizer. The farm uses “certified naturally grown” practices.

That year, she and her mother — who do most of the hand labor — installed almost 2,000 plants. In 2020, they planted about 4,000 and the flower operation broke even. Last year, it generated about $4,000 in revenue, Mrs. Bracewell said.

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