Our First Season

I've written a couple of times about our start. It really began with a question. We decided to move away from northern New Hampshire last spring. I knew there were many things that I'd miss from the White Mountains area, not the least of which was a lovely flower farm just a couple miles from our home. In the time that we lived up north, I'd fallen in love with the farm. TarrNation Flower Farm is a picture perfect New England farm set in an idyllic valley overlooking Streeter Pond. It's owners, Reggie (dad) and Venessa (daughter) Tarr were growing some flowers that I'd never seen before- Chantilly snapdragons. They were special, softy colored blooms- not at all like the gaudy ones I'd known growing up. So, in the looming absence of access to my favorite farm, I wondered if I could find away not to miss those snapdragons.

I decided to order a few packs of seeds and see if I could figure out how to grow a small crop of them for our family to enjoy that summer. The seeds arrived...and then we did just about everything you can do to mess them up. 

The dog knocked over and spilled half the cell pack not long after we seeded it. I thought for sure that all those tiny, tiny snapdragon seeds would be lost. Then, as the weeks wore on and the temperatures rose, I started to think that we'd sown our seeds too late or that maybe the seeds had washed away during an early (overhead-oops, again!) watering. And then, what if I "pinched" them wrong? And then there was the time I had to move them mid-summer in the garden and then the week the drip irrigation failed when we were away... Those were the worst moments. But, despite all of those things, our Chantilly Bronze and Pink snapdragons did germinate. I'm sure we lost a few along the way, but the majority came in and they gave and gave until the end of summer. 

 Our first cut flowers from seed: Chantilly Bronze and Chantilly Pink snapdragons

Our first cut flowers from seed: Chantilly Bronze and Chantilly Pink snapdragons

What I learned last summer is that I can do this. Even if I really mess things up, I can do this. Which means that you can, too. Our first summer of growing annuals provided a steeper learning curve than I ever imagined, but despite the constant tweaking and tinkering with things, we fell hard for farming and nurturing our flowers. 

 An early summer arrangement with peonies and lupines and some dahlias from a friend. 

An early summer arrangement with peonies and lupines and some dahlias from a friend. 

We've learned so much along the way and have a ton more to figure out. But we've put down our proverbial "roots" and we're working out the details. This past summer and fall, we gained confidence in: 

  • Succession sowing 
  • Laying out beds and plant spacing 
  • Installing drip irrigation 
  • Caring for dahlias- planting, nurturing, dividing, storing
  • Havesting seeds
  • Clearing land for a new field
  • Developing a business plan for getting our products to market
  • Acquiring many, many new zone-appropriate perennials and bulbs 
  • Building a website and online store for our CSA program
  • Marketing our work and story online
  • Designing a new floral studio and workshop (construction begins this spring!)
  • And- just yesterday-- applying for an LLC in the State of New Hampshire. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
 The old and the new. I found these "vintage" scissors in the dahlia patch.

The old and the new. I found these "vintage" scissors in the dahlia patch.

 One of three little notebooks that chronicle the things we learned last summer and a cigar box with the seeds we've saved for next season. 

One of three little notebooks that chronicle the things we learned last summer and a cigar box with the seeds we've saved for next season. 

It has been a busy nine months, and we're already looking forward to a host of projects we'd like to tackle this year- like season extension through greenhouse and hoop house work, seed sowing with soil blockers, customizing our brand identity with a logo, incorporating some professional photography and video into our materials, learning a whole lot from the folks at Floret Flower Farm during their April flower farming intensive workshop, and building a stock of "off-season" products and services. 

Along the way, we've gained so much from others and from our own mistakes. The Floret blog has been a tremendous help, and we recommend it to anyone who is interested in growing cut flowers on a small farm. Our friends and family have encouraged us, given us gift certificates to plant and seed suppliers, and celebrated with us along the way. The flower farming community on Instagram has been wonderful, and I'm so glad we're finding a home there. I've found comfort in sharing our screw-ups and successes with other folks who are hooked on the beauty and promise of growing flowers to share with others. Here at the farm, we know already that we can provide some helpful tips for other beginners, and we look forward to sharing some blog posts about those things that don't seem to be out there for general consumption yet! So keep an eye out for future Barn Bulletin posts!

Thank you for sharing in our (early) journey. We are so grateful to everyone who has played a role in the start of our little farm. 

Happiest of holidays to you and your loved ones,

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