US (MI): Owner of flower farm on this year's flower trends and the pandemic

Meri Jo Flower Farm is a family business that started two years ago when the Kilmer family bought a 12-acre horse ranch at Beaumont and Livingston roads in Highland, Michigan. Angie Kilmer had her eye on the property for years, and one day a for sale sign popped up. Kilmer, an accountant, bought the land to grow and sell cut flowers. Spinal Column interviewed Kilmer on her business, this year's flower trends and the pandemic.

How does the business work?
“I think cut flower farming is following the “farm to table” trend. A large percentage of cut flowers purchased in the U.S. are imported from other countries like Colombia. Flowers grown locally last longer because they do not have the travel time after harvesting like imported flowers do. Some flowers do not ship well, which is an advantage for a local farmer since these flowers can be enjoyed with minimal handling.”

“The ‘microfarm’ concept is very popular. You do not need a lot of land to grow flower crops. With tighter plant spacing and succession planting (staggering crops and planting at intervals for a consistent supply of a flower variety) a good amount of flowers can be grown in a small space – even a backyard!”

“Flower farmers sell their crops in a number of ways: farm stands (we have a flower cart at our farm), farmer’s markets, flower subscription programs, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and wholesale to the floral design industry and grocery stores are among the most popular.”

This year's flower trends
“We haven’t yet reached a point where we are providing flowers for weddings and larger events. I do belong to a number of floristry groups, so I am in tune with what is requested from floral designers, and in turn requested by floral designers of flower farmers. I am seeing some fun things like prom bouquets, a smaller version of a bridesmaid bouquet. Wedding trends seem to be following a muted color palette with tall grasses and dried flowers. I have been keeping an eye on these trends to help with ordering for next year.”

Pandemic challenges
“I was concerned about the effect of COVD-19 on our first full growing year. We were both positively and negatively impacted. Since so many businesses were operating on a limited basis and people were really feeling a sense of isolation, they were able to come to the farm and purchase flowers. I had some really touching comments from my customers saying that our flowers gave them a little lift and helped to brighten their day. With so much uncertainty and fear, a drive through Highland Recreation Area to our farm was a welcome escape from what was (is) going on in the world.”

“Of course, the pandemic presented challenges, but not in a way you would expect. With more people staying home and enjoying the outdoors and nature, there was an increase in gardening! While this is a wonderful shift, it created shipping delays and shortages of supplies. At one point, I couldn’t find a Mason jar to save my life because so many people were canning their vegetable harvests! I also found that I had to order my seeds, bulbs and tubers much earlier than normal because there was so much more demand than there had been previously.”

To read the complete interview, go to www.spinalcolumnonline.com.


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