Flower farms take root in New Brunswick
Kailtyn Blackburn’s daily routine has changed dramatically over the past year.
In 2021, the Steeves Mountain woman gave up her career in human resources with a private health care company.
She traded corporate life for tulips and dahlias when she opened Two Blooms Flower Farm near Moncton.
“I’m really excited about the local flowers and the excitement other community members generate about the local flowers,” she said.
She is not alone. Flower farms are springing up all over the province.
Blackburn’s operations are small at this point. She grows about 20 varieties on less than an acre of land right behind her house.
Her crops are mostly grown in the fields, but she also has a greenhouse, which is a greenhouse structure, to help her extend her season.
Blackburn sells its flowers through a pre-order and pickup program and offers flower subscriptions. She also does custom orders and bridal bouquets for small weddings.
It’s a small operation, Blackburn said, but floriculture is also a serious business.
“A lot of times the public perception about flower farms is that we have this lovely garden in the backyard of our house, and we cut a few things and put together a bouquet for our customers,” she said. “But really, there’s so much more than that.”
Blackburn likened investing in flower farms to more traditional types of farming, such as growing food and commodities. “Floriculture is no different,” she said.
trial and error
Alicia O’Hara discovered her love for growing flowers during the pandemic. She had “no experience or knowledge” but “fell into it” in 2020.
It all started when she set out to reclaim the overgrown gardens of her property in Alma. “I went out and was digging and then I really enjoyed playing in the dirt, which wasn’t my normal thing,” she said. “It sort of morphed from there.”
O’Hara said that with no local associations or professional groups to turn to in New Brunswick, she began searching the internet for information.
She found a flower farm workshop online run by a company in the United States. It was all she needed. She opened Coastal Blooms in the summer of 2021.
O’Hara works part-time as a social worker and the rest of the time she is in her garden. She has six large beds of perennials and a plot to grow annuals, all flowering at different times.
“It’s a big trial or error for me,” she said, “and a lot of reading, a lot of contact with other flower growers in the area.”
O’Hara has built her own support network with other flower growers whom she meets regularly in the Sussex area.
One such farmer is Sophie Sharp.
Sharp is a seventh generation farmer from Lower Millstream, outside Sussex.
She started Sharp Brook Flower Farm with her sister Ellen Folkins in 2021 after a suggestion from her mother. “You like growing flowers and you like gardening. Grow flowers and maybe you can sell them,” she said.
Sharp decided to give it a shot.
“We just dipped our toe to see how it would go and it was a resounding success,” she said. “It’s a huge opportunity that we have, and I think we should really keep going for it.”
Since then, the sisters have added U-pick to their business.
Sharp believes the time is right for the floriculture industry in New Brunswick.
“Agritourism is something that’s really, really important right now,” she said. “People like to go and experience things, get out and see where their food comes from and where their flowers come from.”
As this new industry grows in New Brunswick, there is also a learning curve for customers, especially when it comes to sustainability.
O’Hara said people are aware of the carbon footprint of food, but are only beginning to wonder where the flowers in grocery stores come from. “How long did it take them to get here, and how many planes, trains and things did they have to do?”
It’s up to small growers to help educate people and encourage local flower purchases, O’Hara said. “I think my [customers are] aware that they’re cultured in Alma, and I think that’s important to them, but I really think there’s more education we could do. »
Blackburn says buying locally grown flowers means you get a better product and customers notice the difference.
“They notice that the vase life is exceptional, that the quality of the flowers is so much better than what they are used to,” she said. “We bring something really unique, really different, fresh and fun to our communities.”
But providing unique bouquets means customers have to adjust their expectations when it comes to marking special occasions such as weddings.
Unlike the traditional flower industry, not all types of flowers are always available.
Customers should be flexible if they want locally grown bouquets or arrangements, Sharp said.
“The ideal wedding for us would be someone who isn’t looking for any particular flower,” she said, but “is content with whatever is in season.”
Sharp also offers a DIY option for weddings that gives couples the ability to create their own bouquets and centerpiece arrangements.
Sharp, Blackburn and O’Hara all have plans for the future, with new flowers, bigger crops and better irrigation and landscape fabric to reduce weeds.
Blackburn described his farm as a work in progress. “I always think about where I want this business to go for me.”
Sharp is excited about the prospects, but takes it one season at a time. “I think you just have to grow slowly, and you [have to] really work on it.”
For O’Hara, part of the key to running his flower farm is the informal support of fellow farmers who quickly share advice and information with each other.
She said there was a lot to learn about pest control, harvesting seeds, soil conditions and spraying crops with natural fertilizers.
O’Hara believes that helping each other will help grow the industry in New Brunswick. “Rising tides lift all ships,” she said. “If we can do well, then that’s wonderful. For example, let’s help each other do better and share information.”
She compares being a flower grower to her career as a social worker. “Everyone helps each other, all working for a common good, sharing flowers,” she said.
“Make people happy with beautiful things.”