Flower farms proliferate in the Flathead Valley


From small backyards to open farms, a grassroots floral movement is taking hold.

“It’s about using flowers grown locally and seasonally,” said April Vomfell, who started one of the first flower farms in the Flathead Valley.

She started Flathead Farmworks in Kalispell in 2015. Inspired by the local food movement, Vomfell started growing vegetables and plants in her garden.

During her early years, she noticed a lot of enthusiasm for sustainable foods raised near her home. But she didn’t see many options for products that aren’t edible.

She started Flathead Farmworks to fill a void left by gardens, nurseries and floral businesses.

At flower farms like hers, a small team plants and hand-picks a special selection of flowers. Weddings, florists and members of a community supported agriculture program make up a large portion of regular customers.

The business model has started to germinate in recent years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has made it an industry in its own right.

“People see it and say ‘I could do it,'” Vomfell said.

IT’S EASY to see the lure of floriculture.

Vomfell works on a half-acre plot hidden behind his Kalispell home. The garden is an explosion of life and color, although it is barely noticeable from the other side of the door.

A rainbow of dahlias, zinnias and sunflowers look ready to spring from the tight rows that keep them contained behind Vomfell’s wooden fence.

Every day, Vomfell takes a few steps between her house and her compact garden or the nearby greenhouse. When she’s not in the yard, Vomfell typically plans planting schedules, arranges bouquets or makes deliveries. Two part-time employees help out during the busy summer months.

Its field of activity is developing rapidly.

Further out of town, Althea Hogle is in her first summer of production at Phyllary Farm.

Hogle’s operation on his family’s land is a bit more like a traditional farm than the urban oasis of Vomfell.

About a quarter of an acre of the family’s 6-acre lot is devoted to floriculture. Cosmos, sunflowers and dahlias bloom across what were once fallow fields last year.

Although Phyllary Farm might seem fairly typical at a glance, closer inspection reveals that there isn’t much conventional about Hogle’s business. This is one of the many attractions of the flower farm model.

While Vomfell, along with Flathead Farmworks, selects soft pastel colors that are best suited for weddings, Hogle prefers unusual colors, less familiar flowers, and a growing style that isn’t very neat.

“I like weird ones,” Hogle said, pointing to purple sunflowers and prickly nigella seed pods.

Hogle also differs from Vomfell in its organizational approach. Since Phyllary Farm is less confined than Flathead Farmworks, Hogle can take more liberties with his planting. Unlike Vomfell’s meticulous layout, Phyllary Farm is more like a wild meadow.

Vomfell has spent years analyzing the exact microclimates of every corner of its garden, closely monitoring where it gets more sun and faster snowmelt. Hogle, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to mind if her plants take a bit more leeway with their location and growing time.

“It’s not perfect,” Hogle readily admitted. “It’s perfect for what it is. It’s perfect in its imperfection.”

THE BEAUTY of floriculture lies in the independence of each small holding.

“Understanding that your niche is big,” Hogle said.

It’s been an important part of the process at 2 Kay’s Flower Farm, a mother-daughter flower farm that seeks to connect customers to their roots.

Many flower farms are closed to the public, as the delicate little spaces cannot accommodate many visitors.

But bringing strangers to the farm is a big goal for Marlene Horsfall and Crystal Allison.

They have built 2 Kay’s Flower Farm on a huge family farm that dates back five generations.

“After so many generations, we’re proud of that,” Horsfall, the duo’s mother, said. “It’s just fun to share that.”

Now in its second season, 2 Kay’s Flower Farm is designed to be experienced first-hand.

Horsfall and Allison sell many of their flowers at a stand on the west end of their property, where they have parked an original antique farm truck. Known as Fyrne the Ford, the 1960 vehicle practically begs visitors to stop and take a photo – there’s even a cellphone holder to eliminate the need for a photographer.

Each of the culture spaces is also visitor-friendly. Flower clusters are separated – perennials in one, annuals in another – with plant-covered doorways leading to each area.

This summer, Horsfall and Allison began hosting tours, giving people the opportunity to pick their own flowers and arrange a bouquet. They originally planned a single tour, but ended up holding three sold-out events.

In the future, they hope to make 2 Kay’s more accessible to visitors. They were inspired by a Stevensville horticulturist to connect with local nursing homes. They would also like to bring photographers, runaways and weddings to the incredibly photogenic farm. And they hope to add a pumpkin patch, sunflower maze and a small event center.

“People want to connect with rural America,” Allison said. “There is a connection that can be made through flowers.”

Journalist Bret Anne Serbin can be reached at 406-758-4459 or [email protected]

Photo

Photo

Terisa K. Carn