Words from Farmer Holly:
Every time I step off an airplane in the golden state of California I recognize a seemingly distinct smell of the air, a smell that feels familiar and comforting and still holds a sense of home. I think it’s a concoction of the sea, the mountains, the dryness, and the plant life that grows year around. It’s always there to greet me when I make my yearly visit back to the place where I spent my childhood. With it floods in the memories of giant eucalyptus and fig trees, avocado groves, and cacti so big they start to lift the roofs off of the shed and touch the telephone line (this happened to my grandmother, see photo below!) Plants thrive in California, the climate is constant and nourishing for the nature’s continual growth. On my most recent trip to visit friends in San Francisco this past week, I noticed entire hillsides covered with sprawling nasturtiums and citrus was falling off of the trees, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of envy for such a giving climate.
It’s been 12 years since I moved to central Illinois, a move made to be closer to family, and during that time I discovered my passion for the local agriculture movement and working on farms. I’m asked often if I want to move back to California, to the land of abundant sunshine and cascading flora. Despite my slight climate envy, I don’t feel truly at home on the west coast anymore, I’ve uprooted and found new, enriching ground in the heart of the Midwest.
That said, one thing cannot be denied about the Midwest, and it poses a great challenge to farming. What I’m referring to is that we have all four seasons, and winters are long and cold. Yes, I love the colorful leaves of autumn and the fluffy white snow during the cold months, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but as a farmer in this climate it requires a special set of know-how, equipment, and infrastructure to make year-round farming possible.
2017 is a big year of growth for Delight Flower Farm, we are trying to take a leap and transition into farming full time. We’ve expanded by branching into wholesale with local grocery stores and florists, offering weekly workshops, packaging our edible flowers, growing the CSA and business deliveries, and in so many more ways. But ultimately, if we want to do this, we know we have to make a big investment in ourselves and in the farm. One way we did this was just 6 short weeks ago in the form of our new 30′ x 84′ Nifty Hoops hoop house. Nifty Hoops made a time lapse video of the build, check it out!
We couldn’t be more thrilled to have this structure on our farm now, it’s going to add months to our growing season, allowing our region to have prolonged access to locally grown flowers, further strengthening the movement for consumers to think and buy locally. This is a big step for us, it’s going to create greater stability and capabilities for our farm. However, we couldn’t have done this on our own, and other farms shouldn’t have to either.
Here is an important resource we used to help make this dream a reality:
EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) Grant Funding through the US Department of Agriculture
EQIP funding provides financial and technical assistance to farms looking to practice conservation techniques on their land. We applied specifically for help with funding our greenhouse and went through a rigorous application process to be ranked high enough to receive funding. We had to prove that our farm is a healthy habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects and that this greenhouse will help us to continue our sustainable methods of farming.
The good news? It can be done! There is money out there from the government to help farms grow and improve! You can apply for many different things for your farm, not just a hoop house, and different aspects of your farm might increase or decrease your ranking. The bad news? The application process is truly not easy and needs to be started months in advance in order to complete all the components. Plan ahead and persevere! Double check that you are completing all the steps correctly and follow up with your local office regularly to make sure you are on the right track.
Find more info here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/