Jade Hall of Bracken and Bloom takes us through some of the challenges she has faced in her first year running a small-scale flower farm in a remote rural location.
My flower farm, Bracken & Bloom (Bracken is rife and so has become our namesake!), is about to complete its first season. We are situated on the border of Devon and Dorset, near to the coast, and the only access to the plot is on foot, through two other fields.
Being rural, we have to deal with many different ‘pests’. I call them pests with affection because no matter how many roses the deer eat, seeing them in a misty field is always a pleasure. To prevent some of the damage, my plot is fenced using second-hand Heras fence panels – not the prettiest, but cheap, effective, and recycled. We are also installing rabbit wire along the bottom of the fence as a few have sneakily found their way in.
The farm is lucky to have a healthy population of toads who spawn in the nearby lake and stream. They help keep the slug population under control, and we help them find shelter by leaving areas of bracken to grow long through the year. This also supports the beneficial insects on our plot, and I’ll be creating some additional bug hotels with my children.
When it comes to growing, perhaps the biggest challenge for small farms like mine is getting the balance of flowers right. We have to grow a range of varieties to provide us with blooms throughout the season, but enough of each one to guarantee a good quantity of stems. It’s also important to have a mix of focal and filler flowers available at all times, as well as foliage.
And growing the flowers is just the first step. Social media has been a helpful tool for engaging with local customers, and the Flowers for the Farm website has also allowed people to find us on the map to market what we produce. However, the limited access to our plot means that much of what I sell has to be delivered, which is another demand on my time.
Markets are another great way to connect with the local community, and I attend a monthly market in my nearest town. I have met some lovely people this way, including the other stallholders who understand the ups and downs of running a small business. Networking with other local growers has also been invaluable, especially when in need of a couple of different dahlias.
Flowers from the Farm