Homegrown | N.C. Farm School Helps Flower Business Bloom


This is a small cut flower garden and also
a vegetable garden to support my floral design work that is a couple miles away in downtown
Raleigh. We’re on Lake Wheeler Road, super close to
downtown, and it’s really easy for me to cut the freshest flowers and take them right to
my cooler in the shop and support the work that we do in things like weekly floral deliveries,
flower subscriptions, arrangements for events, and even up to the scale of weddings. North Carolina Farm School was started about
five years ago as a county program with Amy-Lynn Albertson. She had heard so many people coming in saying,
“I want to start a farm, but I don’t know how to start.” The program was started with that. The second year of the program, she came to
us and said, “Can you take on this program and make it a statewide program?” For the last five years, I’ve been working
with that to help people who are considering farming kind of walk through the process to
see, will this really work? We have the match up what resources, doing
inventory of what they have, match it up with what they think they can grow, then we work
through some numbers where they see, is this going to be profitable? What’s it going to cost to start up? Then, we go into the marketing side, that
of, is there a market for what we’re trying to sell? Some things have markets, and some, you want
to have to build the market. Then, we kind of end this with a kind of contingency
planning of helping people bring those optimistic projections down to something that may be
more realistic to do. I sought out Farm School because I knew I
had this dream that was pretty vivid in my head, this vision to grow, cut flowers to
support my floral design business, but I had no idea how to quantify what I wanted to do. Farm School really helped me to learn those
systems and to approach the idea of a business plan without feeling intimidated. I really had this idea that a business plan
was something that was scary and very formal and very much out of my area of expertise,
but Farm School made that process really accessible and kind of calmed my anxieties about it. I was able to really figure out how to put
that dream into numbers and spreadsheets and a clear format, and make it feel real. That boosted my confidence and enabled me
to do some long-term planning to bring this thing to life. This is our floral shop and studio. We’ve got a retail shop up front where we
make arrangements for people to come in and pick up spontaneously. We also make arrangements for delivery in
the downtown Raleigh area. We also have a studio workspace in the back
where we create larger scale arrangements for weddings, events, that sort of thing. We and a lot of other young florists are trying
to source more locally to support the local economy and to also kind of be conscious of
environmental sustainability as it relates to the floral industry. Traditionally, people will ship in from all
over the world. We, especially this time of year when we can
get so much beautiful material locally, we buy from local farms as well as grow in our
own garden. The biggest thrill I get from doing this is
coming back and seeing people who actually started through, started with a concept, come
back and see them in a year or two and see what they developed. That is probably my biggest thrill, to see
folks who’ve actually taken that concept, turned it into a real farm business. We’re doing really well. This year is much more profitable than last. We are making money at what we’re doing. It’s not as much money as we want to be making,
but I think when you are starting your own business, you have to be aware that you’re
going to bootstrap it for a few years, and it’s going to take time and sacrifice, longer
hours than you would ever work for another organization, but when your heart is in it,
all of that is worth. I feel super optimistic about where we’re
headed.

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