On growth: science, wildness, and community!

What causes one plant to thrive in a particular location and another to wither up and die? First, there’s the obvious answer of growing conditions: the right nutrients in the soil, neither too much nor too little water/sun, the proper temperatures for that particular variety of species needs, adequate space to grow to the size of the plant, and the countless other scientific/measurable factors. Second, there’s the more mysterious, ambiguous, seemingly random conditions. Natural factors such as an animal depositing the seed in a particular location. Maybe it was a bird dropping a seed by way of its feces. Or did it just happen to blow into the right spot by way of the wind? Or, perhaps, the first year of a perennial plant’s growth happens to be a particularly wet year which gives it just what is needed for establishing robust roots. This second answer is part-mystery, the wild essence of nature, or some might credit it to divine intervention. We’ll call it the “faith factor.”

Recently, we were asked to speak to a group of new farmers in training. We focused the subject of our lecture to our farm’s rate of growth. We hoped this would illustrate for inexperienced farmers that you don’t need to start with lots of cash or even a wealth of knowledge (for example: you don’t have to be raised in a farm family) to start a successful small farm. Our farm began with virtually no start-up capital. In fact, reflecting back on my first year farming, six seasons ago, in 2011, I remember spending less than $100 of my own money on seeds, bulbs, and tools. However, one of the most interesting factors in Delight Flower Farm’s growth has been our dependence on community support. From the beginning our farm has operated primarily on the CSA model. In that first year I had eight shareholders investing in the farm (at which time I thought of it more as a “garden project” than a “farm”). It was just enough money to help with initial expenses (rented rototiller, compost, mulch, some jars, a few shovels, a hand-build-bike-trailer, etc.)

Beyond the financial support these CSA members provided, they communicated confidence and trust in me to try the project. This “faith factor” motivated me to work hard throughout the season to deliver on their expectations. Speaking in terms of a young entrepreneur, motivation to succeed and work hard is essential for making a business work.  Each successive year included more community members’ support. Our farm has had people backing us from the beginning. What’s so splendid about the CSA model is these community stakeholders share both the risk and the abundance of the season.

Our growth rate has drastically increased in the last two years as we take on greater risks (we’re planning a high tunnel construction project Spring 2017, which will enable us to extend our growing season) and we continue to expand the amount of land we grow on. Also, our community support has exponentially increased- this year we delivered arrangements to local restaurants, and businesses, in addition to our weekly CSA pick-up, (which had 30 shareholders this year!) We sold at a few farmers markets, pop-up shops, and made countless (although we do count them!) custom orders. We also made the leap from farmer to florist when we provided floral services for four local weddings. We recently started selling wholesale to Common Ground Food Co-op so community members can regularly pick up flowers conveniently at a local store for a last minute dinner party or a get-well flower arrangement for a friend during our growing season. We have created several value-added products (industry lingo) to sell at winter markets (look for our packaged teas, wreaths, herbal medicine, dried flower arrangements, etc. at the First Friday Imbibe Urbana Holiday Market, Dec 2nd as well as some other indoor winter markets).

In fact,  a “brief” summary of our growth this last year is impossible because it’s been anything but small. We have grown in HUGE ways, which is a credit to both the measurable conditions and the seemingly random factors. Yet, the core of our farm and business success is still people in our community having faith in us. When our community invests in our growth, and believes in our ability to navigate the challenges of farming we are inspired, motivated, and indeed, we flourish! We are a people-powered farm and this “factor” is why we thrive. On that note, we’re not ashamed to plug this: it’s time to sign up for the 2017 CSA! Enroll now- when we can put your finances to use with planning and purchasing for the 2017 season and while the rate is at its’ lowest cost to you.

Thanks for your continued support. -Maggie

Things are hoppin’ on the farm!

Flush, abundant, bloomin’, full-speed-ahead, busy -are all descriptors for this time of year on a Midwestern flower farm. We’ve been buzzing with lots of activity on Delight Flower Farm as you might have noticed on our various social media feeds. Here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to.

Our first annual Hops Plant Sale for Father’s Day weekend was mid-June at Sipyard in downtown Urbana with music by the lovely Matt and Claire of Meadowhawk. It was a grand success. We met a bunch of friendly local brewers, herbalists, and gardeners and sold some plants too.

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Sunflower (Zinnia, Honeywort, Sage, Nasturtium, Daisy, Gooseneck, etc!) harvest has begun!!!

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Business deliveries:: This year we’ve added several new businesses to our regular delivery route. Thanks for your support, Watson’s Shack and Rail, Country Financial, Living Yoga Center, Green Yoga Spa, and Reisman Law Office. We’re glad to brighten up your work spaces with fresh flowers.

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CSA on-farm pick up. This year, we’ve changed the shareholders’ pick up format from years’ past. This new location and structure -just a short 2 hour pick up window on the farm-puts the big “C” back into our flower CSA. Being able to greet shareholders in person each week  and have shareholders meet each other really does feel like it cultivates community (& the fuzzy baby goats sweeten the deal!)

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Thanks for keepin’ up with our growth (pun intended)!

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Snapshots from this weekend’s wedding!

There’s a trend amongst flower growers these days to be both farmer and florist (see #fieldtoflorist #seedtovase #farmerflorist etc.) We gave that concept a run this weekend for a friendly Urbana couple. It was a bit nerve racking to do flowers for our first “full service” wedding. The learning curve felt pretty much vertical, but it affirmed to us that we’re doing what we love and we’re capible of doing it! (High fives all around!) Congrats, Sophie and Andrew. It was an honor to have a special role in your big pizza party! Here’s a little glimpse from field to vase (& hair piece!)









Holiday Wreaths :: Order NOW!

wreath2014May you be warm, well, and in the mood to celebrate togetherness this season! We are now taking orders for holiday wreaths. They are handmade with locally-grown greens, pine cones, dried flowers and a little extra special bling.  We will harvest greens, and make wreaths the week after Thanksgiving. We plan to have them ready for pick up by the following weekend (Dec 5 & 6th). They range from fancy to simple, from weird to wild. Each one is sure to delight (pun intended!)

IMG_4719There will be two sizes, just like in past years: large (18″/$35) and small (12″/$25). Please email DelightCSA@gmail by Dec 1st at midnight if you’d like to order one or several (they make nice gifts!) In the email let me know how many you’d like of each size. These photos are of some of the wreaths I made last year.  I’ll let you know pick up details once you order. Thanks!

(belated) Week 10

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bzzzzz

We officially wrapped up another CSA season last week. Although, it feels more like finishing one chapter and immediately turning the page to start the next- we’ve got BIG plans ahead- but I’ll get to that in another post real soon.

For now here’s a little recap of the last chapter: starting seeds, soil prep, planting, rain, FLOODING, more flooding, flowers, bees, bugs, sunshine, weeds, weeding, napping on the job (see the doggie below), happy shareholders with bright bundles, friends, community, and a party to celebrate it all! Thank you for making another season on this little ol’ flower farm possible. That makes five years! (And thanks to JP Goguen for these lovely farm photos. there are more on his flickr album.)

napping on the job

end of season party

Week 9

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We can’t believe it’s come to week 9/10 already! In fact, I’m late on publishing this post from last week and we are already now well into week 10! This season seemed to fly by once we dried out from the Urbana Monsoon that was June.
Shareholders, please come to the farm this Friday (5-7pm) for our end of season celebration and to pick up your final bouquets of the 2015 CSA season. We are excited to get together over flowers (& refreshments!) and share some exciting news about what we have planned for 2016!

Upcoming classes!

transplanting seedlings

Flower Power (class) at Common Ground Food Co-op, Saturday, August 29th, 2-3 pm. $5 owner/ $10 non-owner In this workshop learn many benefits of growing flowers (good for bees, good for veggies, good for the environment, and good for you!). Participants will learn cut flower basics, plant seeds to tend at home. Join us and enjoy the delight of flowers!

Cut Flower Workshop (with The Land Connection) at Illinois Willows, Sunday, September 13th, 1-4 pm. $35/person Fresh, local, flowers are in high demand, as they pop up at weddings, at farmers’ markets, and in CSAs. Learn the basics of production, processing, and marketing from three local experts: Joan Jach of Old Town Flowers, Maggie Taylor of Delight Flower CSA, and Kent Miles of Illinois Willows.

Week 8

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This week features surprise lilies (as well as the other favorites you’ve come to know this season: Queen Anne’s Lace, Zinnia, Tansy, Sunflowers, etc.)

Week 6 & 7: the bee’s knees

IMG_6475.JPGThe days have been sunny, hot, and humid. The height of excellence in this flower season by far. Our sunflowers are so huge, sculptural and prolific. We’ve been daydreaming about making their wide, seed-filled heads into outdoor shower nozzles. Do you think it would work?! 😉

I think both Liz and Holly have officially declared sunflowers as their absolute/enduring favorite flowers. I keep changing my mind. I’m easily smitten by whatever is currently blooming. Lately, Queen Anne’s Lace has been pushing to the top of my favorites list again. I mean, what’s not to love about these shapes?

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