Surprises from Floret

I can’t believe it has been almost a week since I returned from a Floret flower farming intensive workshop in Skagit Valley, Washington. On the front end of my trip, I was certain that I’d have my April newsletter written and tied up on the flights home, but there was so much information to process, that I actually spent the trip back re-writing and re-organizing my notes from the 3-day program. I guess that was the first surprise. I knew the workshop would be good, but I had no idea how moving it would be.

 Erin Benzakein leads a tour of Floret Flower Farm for workshop attendees.

Erin Benzakein leads a tour of Floret Flower Farm for workshop attendees.

The second surprise was how “real” it felt. Erin and her team seemed like celebrities to me in the months leading up to the workshop- and they still do- but what the workshop gave me was an inside look at some of my heroes. They are humble, human, and kind. They seemed to bring the best out of our group. And they took time to tell us where they’d messed up in the past. If you follow Erin’s blog, you know that she is all about sharing the information she wished she’d had access to when she was starting out. Most of us attendees had read just about everything Erin published, but the things we learned at the workshop you can’t glean from a blog or book. We learned about her personal motivation, how she sets goals and works to achieve them, and how she laughs now about the mistakes she made early on.

 A photo with Erin rounded out my visit on the last day. 

A photo with Erin rounded out my visit on the last day. 

That brings me to another surprise. Many of us wondered whom we’d be attending the workshop with. Floret put us all in touch before the workshop and almost half of us were able to meet up for dinner before the workshop started. (Some of us even picked each other out on the plane ride to Seattle—we could just tell.) We spent a couple of hours learning more about one another at a restaurant near the recommended hotel. The youngest in the group was 18. The oldest were…well…older ;). One thing we all had in common was that we were poised at some kind of turning point in our lives. Some of us, myself included, were young in the field- having recently realized that we need to pursue flower farming. Others were looking to make changes to drastically improve their businesses. Some were curious and considering making a big change in their lives. We heard stories of illness that led to rediscovery, of corporate burnout, of life long farmers hoping to carry on family tradition. It is hard to describe the energy that you could feel when we got together—we knew that exciting things were about to happen.

 A harvest of tulips on the last day in preparation for making afternoon arrangements. 

A harvest of tulips on the last day in preparation for making afternoon arrangements. 

And lastly, the farm itself was really surprising. Many of us knew on the front end that Erin and her team were farming on just 2 acres of land, but it is hard to understand what that means until you see it in action. The Floret farm is beautiful in many ways, but it is also simple and unpretentious. When I got into Skagit Valley the day before I went for a drive and visited the tulip festival. I decided to take the “long way” home and meander around Mount Vernon. I was hoping that I’d just kind of come upon Floret on my own that way, but I drove right past it, none the wiser. The next day I realized how I’d missed it. The Benzakein’s little piece of paradise is quite ordinary on the outside. That was surprising. But, once you start to learn how they do what they do on the land they have, it all starts to make sense. I kept thinking that they’d been really smart with their investments and grown their business strategically, rather than impulsively.

 Learning how to make caterpillar low tunnel hoops with Erika of June's Blooms at the Floret workshop.

Learning how to make caterpillar low tunnel hoops with Erika of June's Blooms at the Floret workshop.

I came out of the Floret workshop feeling like it was an experience that every woman should have, let alone every flower farmer. I felt so grateful. It was inspiring and healing at the same time. It’s an investment that we all deserve to make, and I saw fellow attendees go to great lengths to make it happen.

Less than a week since the workshop has passed. Our group of “session 1 kindred flower spirits” has already exchanged over 30 messages. We maintain an email discussion group and post questions and answers to each other often. It has been a tremendous resource. If you’re considering registering for a workshop next summer, I can assure you that you’ll have a similar experience. And- that you’ll be surprised by what you learn about yourself, your clients, your farm, and your flowers.

Warm Regards,