It’s Spring and my side gig is heating up, just like the weather.
I attended KU years ago, I changed my major 3 times, and finally with the guidance of my awesome directed studies teacher settled on a painting major. I greatly appreciate what he told me in my 4th year, short and sweet, “You won’t be doing anything like this after college, many do not.” I took this extensive knowledge of design and color and paired it with my seemingly innate knowledge of gardening and pursued my dream job: florist.
I attended a floral design school and quickly (boy, if only I would have known) got a top of the line job at a high end, super intense floral company. The staff turnover was crazy. I had long, late hours and super stressful event set ups, but I loved it. For years, I got to be around incredibly talented designers, used gorgeous, exotic flowers, and filled budgets that to this day I can’t wrap my head around.
Years later, my job was affected by the recession. Staff were being cut because the rich folks were holding onto their money. I wasn’t sure how much longer the downturn would last so I decided to look at jobs closer to home. I was offered a job at a retail store and also picked up some hours here at our lovely LPL. If I'm being honest, the floral retail job was a real letdown. It had its fun times but most of the time I was making copies of designs, over and over. I pursued more hours at our library and when offered more, I let the retail job go. I had also moved out of town and had some land.
I received a notification about an upcoming class that was teaching the basics of cut-flower farming. At the end of this brief class, I half jokingly asked my florist friend, “If I grew flowers, would you buy them?” To which she replied, “Maybe?” Then, just as I do, I took a deep dive and obsessively read, watched, and joined all of the flower farming Facebook pages I could find. A new business was born. The Flower Farmer
Luckily, I had the foresight to buy where the soil was magnificent. After our purchase, a fellow employee here at the library told me, “In that soil you can just throw seeds on the ground and they will grow.” I have not been disappointed.
I hired out the job of tilling my first year, now I only use no till methods after reading why tilling harms the microorganisms in the soil, pulverizes essential worms, and decrease water retention. I started some seeds inside and now have banks of grow lights and fans on shelves in multiple rooms of the house.The Organic No-till Farming Revolution Starting Seeds
That fall, I was in the area of my local conservation district office and popped in to inquire about a popular grant for farmers, one that provides funding for building a high tunnel. That inquiry turned into filling out an application for said grant, and I was awarded one the following spring. Holey moley, this is no longer just a hobby. The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower's Handbook
My third year, last year, my major expense was building a cooler in my garage. It’s great, I no longer have to get up at the crack of dawn to get my harvest done. Frequently, I am making my deliveries before I go to work. Also, many of the flowers I grow appreciate a chilly, overnight nap to properly hydrate. Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden
So, here it is, Spring. This year I hope to start making a profit off of my concentrated twelfth of an acre space. I think I have settled on the right size garden that I can manage by myself. I have to remember summers can be a real drag where motivation is quite low, dealing with insect and weed pressure, watering by hand (I still use a hose), and keeping on a planting schedule so I have things to sell in the fall and seedlings to overwinter. I love all of it though. I raise my baby plants from seed, get them to adulthood, and then get to share their beautiful faces, textures, and smells with my friends and customers. It is a very rewarding business.
-Angela Longhurst is an Accounts Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.