~ A 6th Generation Flower Farm ~

8664 360th Street – St. Joseph, MN

Podcast Episode 26

August Recap

Welcome back to another Sunny Mary Meadow podcast/blog post. I am your host, Liz Fiedler. The day this was recorded/written was August 31, 2023, so I’m just going to give you a little recap of what it’s like on my flower farm in the month of August. If I’m being honest, it’s kind of the month of burnout. It’s kind of the month where you sit there, and you get hard on yourself for not doing things you should have been doing in the spring to prepare for this. Things like you ordered the wrong things, or you planted the wrong things, or you should have been more on top of all the things that you said you were going to do in the offseason administratively, etc. For example, in my mind, I had planned on having an email newsletter drafted for every single week (though, realistically, there was no way that was going to happen). I wanted it so that all I’d have to do is read through and edit things. Realistically, thinking back on it now, it’s like, “Are you kidding me? Of course, I wasn’t going to have all of that done in the off-season.” But man, it’d be nice if I had.

I’m really fortunate that a very good chunk, over half, of my flower sales … probably close to 70%, are pre-sold in the off season. It’s amazing for me because I’m not spending my time trying to sell flowers, instead I can really focus on growing them. The few events that I do have, or the times when I do have sales, I don’t have to constantly post on Facebook saying, “Let me know who needs a bouquet,” or “Let me know if you want one.” I mean, I do a lot of one-off sales where people message me and they need one, but very few of my sales are done that way, which is really good.

However, I’ve more than doubled my growing space and the flowers that I’m selling every single year from year to year (this is year four), and once again, we just didn’t have enough flowers. That’s a great problem to have. But I’ve already spent a lot of the month of August mad at myself for not preparing better or because the things that I thought I had planned out didn’t necessarily pan out, but that’s okay. These are the times when, if you have a flower farm, it’s time to take notes and pay attention. It’s time to really reflect at the end of every day – I’ve been journaling a lot so that at the end of September when I’m ordering my plugs and all of that for next year, I’ll know exactly what I need to do. That’s something really important to do.

August started out really busy. We had Sunfest at The Farm on August 3rd. This was the second time we’ve done it, and this year, we decided to include a significantly bigger bouquet. It was equivalent to what we sell for a $60 bouquet. It was huge. It had about 25 stems in it, including some more premium flowers and tons of sunflowers. And, we had charcuterie included in the cost of the ticket (there was a grazing table). There was also wine tasting. We had my friend Elicia from E. and Co. Clothing, my friends Ashley and Shelby had their candles here from Townline Candle Company, and then my late husband’s cousin’s daughter, Cami Baker, who is 16, was singing acoustic. It was just this beautiful, relaxing night. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as who was going to buy tickets. We did charge $65 for those tickets because a lot went into it. Sometimes I’m like, “Man, I should just stick to the $30 bouquets because I can probably make more when all is said and done.” If you factor in the planning and the extra costs that go into an event like that – things like employees getting stuff ready, paying them for extra days, etc. it adds up. Instead of working for a couple of days, Brittany and Karen were here for five hours, instead of three hours, on multiple days. All of those costs just add up to a lot, but it’s good. We were prepared and ready, and it was so fun.

A lot of my customers, like my subscription holders, already have flowers every week. So, the people who came weren’t a lot of those customers. We had a lot of people come from one to two hours, even as much as three hours away, which was amazing. I mean, people got hotel rooms to come, and I could not believe it. We are actually going to do Dahlia Day on The Farm on September 24th. It’s a Sunday, and it’s going to include a brunch charcuterie table, but otherwise, it’s going to be pretty much the same exact thing as Sunfest. I’m very excited about that. Then, we were doing our You Picks every single Saturday, and I’ll be honest, that got pretty stressful because this is the first year we’ve done the You Picks, this is the first year we’ve had so many subscriptions, nursing home sponsorships, etc. and we didn’t have enough flowers. I talk about it all the time on here, but my goal is to sell every stem. I don’t want to deadhead and put flowers in the compost bin. It’s a cut flower farm – we are selling the stems to make money. If the sunflowers burst open, yeah, that looks nice and it’s very picturesque to have this open sunflower field, but I can’t sell them because they’re too far open. We also cut the cosmos before they’re fully open. There are a lot of those types of flowers you cut before they’re fully open. The zinnias have to be fully opened when you cut them, but for a lot of the flowers you want to cut them before they open up. Because of this, there’s not a lot of color, there’s not a lot of lush, and we’re selling stuff as it blooms. We sold every single lisianthus stem on this farm; we’ll sell every single dahlia stem; we sold every single tulip; and we sold every single ranunculus. We have not sold every single sunflower, but that’s because I planted them close together, kind of experimenting, and they grew way too small of stems. This is the first year that we haven’t sold every single sunflower – lesson learned. I need to space them a little bit better next year. I also just kind of ran out of time when I was planting them, so I just kind of threw them in the ground.

I ended up reaching out to a couple of other flower farmers in the area, my friends at Blooming Creek and my friend at Back Forty Flower Farm. Brianna, Mallory, and Megan, if you guys are listening, thank you so much. I bought probably 10-20 buckets of flowers from each of their flower farms, just a few things that I needed more of, and it really, really helped me along the way when I needed to supplement a few extra flowers. So that was good … I was able to support their business and they were able to help me.

We had summer subscriptions still going the first two weeks of August, on Wednesdays and Fridays, and those are the main focus of our summer. Those subscriptions get the premium stems, so we make those up first, and then Stem Bars based on what else is blooming and what else we have. I had a couple of restaurants that asked for some consistent bouquets for them. I also do flowers for the cidery in St. Joe, Milk & Honey – they pick up some matching bouquets every Tuesday. So, in addition to the subscriptions, I also do a lot of custom orders like that. Of course, we also have our nursing sponsorships every single week. Again, all of those things were pre-sold. And then, we had our Stem Bars – we did one at the farm every Monday and then we had one somewhere else every single week, and it was good. But honestly, I’ve found most people prefer coming to the farm, so we might re-evaluate how we do that next year. I’m probably just gonna go to each place once next year. I don’t know, we’ll see. It kind of depends on how the subscriptions sell, because obviously those customers aren’t going to come to a stem bar every week if they’re buying the subscription, and I wouldn’t expect them to.

We had a Boards & Blooms night with my friend April. She came out and she did a lesson on making a charcuterie board, and then you got to take it down to the meadow and have a little picnic and eat the charcuterie board you had just made, and then you got to bring your bouquet home. My friends from Townline Candle did a reed diffuser class, where you got to make a reed diffuser and then take a bouquet home, too. Laura Liz Mosaic Biz did a mosaic tile class, and you got a bouquet of flowers to go with it. We also had Shanti Yoga come to the farm and do Sunrise Yoga in the Meadow the last two Thursdays in August, and we’re doing it all four Thursdays in September, too. So, those were all ways that I just had a little fun with the customers and got to collaborate with some other local businesses.

August is when you feel like all the hard work has paid off. August through September we have so many blooms/stems. What’s really nice is we’ve spread out the sunflowers so that we constantly have sunflowers these two months. We can have sunflowers in every single bouquet if we want. And finally, as of today, August 31st, the dahlias are really starting to crank out.

We started the “end of summer” four-week subscription last week. We didn’t put dahlias in those just because there weren’t enough for every single subscription holder to have one. If you remember from the dahlia episode, I have 410 dahlia plants. As of today, August 31st, I’m getting about 45 dahlias a day, but I’m able to keep them in my cooler for a couple of days and the subscriptions are all getting at least one or two dahlias starting next week. Then, they will get at least two or three. And then, pretty soon, we’ll be able to have dahlia Stem Bars, dahlia You Picks, all of that.

So last week, that first week of “end of summer” subscriptions, was one last summery push. I had some Pink Picotee lisianthus, which are white with pink tips, and they were beautiful. And then we used some Procut Gold Light sunflowers. So, they were these bright yellow sunflowers, and these white and pink lisianthus, and then we used the bright gomphrena, the bright zinnias, some whimsical cosmos, and they were just a really fun end of summer bouquet, and everyone kind of loved that. I had started transitioning into the fall colors the week before and then it was like “Nope, one more final like summery push.” Now this week, we’re definitely into fall mode. A lot of our dahlias like the Joey Winnie and Cornell Bronze and a lot of those types of colors. There’s some of the Snow on the Mountain greenery, more of the amaranth, our celosia, etc. Celosia is kind of a chameleon flower; I don’t know how else to describe it. It can look so summery, depending on what you put it with/the shades that I use, or it can look very fall-like depending on the shades that I use. That’s a really fun texture to throw into those bouquets.

Honestly, if I sound like I’m having a lot of fun, it’s because I am. This is the dream. We get to actually make bouquet recipes, and we have so many flowers that we can play with them, I haven’t had to buy any flowers for a couple of weeks, and I feel like, “Okay, finally, we’re good.” I know things that I need to do differently next year. We’re starting our wish list of what to grow and what not to grow.

In my You Pick sections, I have 19 rows, and of them, there’s a lot of half-rows that aren’t doing great, or a third of a row that’s not doing great. I would say of those 19 rows, about six of them were just stupid. So, we’re down to about 13 rows that actively produced and cranked out the flowers like we needed them to, and properly did the colors, and whatever. So, we’re thinking we’re going to add three more rows down there for next year. Again, those rows are 4 feet x 60 feet of actual growing space. They start out five feet wide, but then there’s a half-foot of landscape fabric on each side. So, we’re going to add three more rows and then we’re going to use those six rows worth of space way more effectively next year.

We’ve learned so many lessons of what to plant, what not to plant, what did well, and what didn’t do well. It was also a new growing space, so we had some crabgrass come through. It just needs some soil amendments, and we’ll work on all of that this fall, in October, once all of this is done. I’m really excited to definitely use that space more effectively and get way more flowers – work smarter, not harder. We are also ordering a second high tunnel. It will be exactly the same as the one we already have and we’re gonna put it right next to the other tunnel. It fits perfectly there, which we knew when we put the current one where it’s at. Technically, we could have four tunnels over there of that exact same size or get a 100-foot-long one. So, we’re going to add one more 16 x 50-foot-high tunnel, and then I think in the spring, we might buy a greenhouse. We’ll see – there’s a lot more to come on that and why we would buy a greenhouse versus a high tunnel, and what my thoughts are there.

We laid out some silage tarp to kill the grass where that new tunnel is going to go. The space where it will go currently has about 10 feet of flowers in it with landscape fabric. It has flowering kale, scabiosa, orlaya, and a couple of other things, and then there’s literally six feet of grass next to it. So, we needed to kill that grass, and then we’ll build the high tunnel around it, and then just amend the soil this fall. That way it’s ready to go in late-February or early March when we want to plant the spring ranunculus in that tunnel. Again, in my current tunnel, I’m going to try to overwinter some ranunculus, but I’m not optimistic. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna die, but we’re going to try it. If it pays off, it pays off.

So then what else are we doing in the month of August? I’m working a lot on my business course “Peddling Perishable Products.” Brittany, who was working here went back to school, and Karen’s back at her other job now, too. So, it’s just me and Lindsey. We’re getting a little tired, getting a little exhausted, but in such a good way. We’re just really appreciative of how the summer has gone so far and are looking at goals for next year. I’m so, so, appreciative of all of my customers and what we’ve got going on. I really learned a lot of things along the way this year and I’m excited to honestly say … Yes, we’re going to grow a few different things, we’re going to add a high tunnel, and we’re going to grow a little bit more space, but for the most part, I’m pretty content with where the business is at, where sales are at, and where numbers are at.  I got a better idea on pricing things, and how to keep it affordable for the customers yet be able to pay ourselves living wages and do all of that. I think, honestly, it was a really successful year. And I can honestly say, we have two weeks left of subscriptions and I’m not burnt out. This is the first year where on August 31st I can say, “No, I’m not burnt out. If we had another six weeks before frost, I’d be fine.” Usually, I’m counting down to that part.

I have finalized my tulip order but have no idea if we’re going to have a tulip bulb sale like we originally planned because there has been such a shortage of tulips. So far, I had some substitutions, but no cancellations. I’m getting all of my bulbs so far, supposedly, but I am not going to pre-sell any of them because I’m not going to count on it until I know they’re for sure here, they’re in my hand and I have mine planted that I need so far. Then we’ll reassess how many extra I have. I’m pretty inclined to say that I’m probably going to just plant them all because if there’s a tulip shortage, I don’t think you’re gonna be able to just go to the grocery store and get tulips. So, I’m really hoping that you know if there’s a need for my customers, and I plant them, I can fill that need. But we’ll see, because I know people do like the fancy tulips and like to plant them in their landscaping. We’re just going to have to see what happens.

Last, but not least, a little life update from the month of August and what we were busy with. Brent and I were going to get married on October 6th, but we have decided to postpone our wedding. I know … drama! I can hear people saying, “I can’t believe they’re not getting married.” No, we are getting married, we just decided to postpone the wedding. We didn’t call it off. We hadn’t even sent out invites yet. It’s not even that we were busy, it’s not that it was stressful, it’s not that we were fighting about it … it’s just there were still some things we needed to do to get our ducks in a row. Obviously, our relationship is not traditional, and it’s a little more complicated than most, and we just need a little bit more time. It’s fine. People like to gossip. People like to talk about it. I mean, I have heard rumors that we broke up. I have heard rumors that I’m pregnant. I have heard rumors that I kicked Brent out, which is hilarious because none of those are true. We are very happy and in love. We’re good; we’re simply postponing it and that’s okay.

Even though it wasn’t necessarily because of anything to do with the farm or the workload, it’s like, “Oh, this does take a huge weight off of our shoulders regarding what we have to do and what we’ve got to get done around here, timing-wise.” And I don’t know, the big traditional wedding … well, not traditional … but we were going to have a pretty big party and that type of thing, and we decided it just wasn’t what we wanted. It was turning into this thing that we didn’t want, and we just decided to kind of pause. Honestly, we’re grownups, we’re not in our early 20s, and there’s just a different set of circumstances. So, we’re just gonna get married next year instead, and we’re okay with that.

So, entering into September, we have two more weeks of subscriptions. We have three more You Picks, we’ve got a stem bar pretty much every day, and we have a private event basically twice a week. This is always the time of year when, even though I try to pre-book them for July and August, I end up with requests. This is when everyone sees me posting about them or other people posting about them, and then they message me and say, “Can you squeeze us in? Could we have a private group?” and we try to make it work. So yeah, we’re still squeezing in some like private Stem Bars, private You Picks, those types of things, and some different corporate events. I just had someone email me and ask me if they commit 20 people, could they come at 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday and make their own bouquets? I was like, “Heck yeah, you can come at 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday. I can make that happen.” Let’s live some banker hours! So that’s been exciting.

Then on September 16th, one of my very, very dear friends is getting married. We’re gonna make her wedding so beautiful, with so many flowers. I did a baby shower last weekend for another one of my best friends. So, entering September, it’s just two more weeks of pushing through subscriptions, big things, and then, honestly, we look around and see what the weather’s looking like. Ideally, we’re not going to get a frost until October, but we’ll just see what happens. If it’s a chance of 30 or 31 degrees, then I’ll try to put an overhead sprinkler on at least the dahlias and save those, so that we can escape a frost and can have dahlias for a little bit longer. But you know, it just kind of depends. I mean, it can definitely be profitable to have another couple of extra weeks of flower sales. That can make a big difference, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.

We also need to start labeling all the dahlias because once they freeze, you will not remember what kind they are. We need to start getting our seed and plug orders in for next year. So, we need to do some of those housekeeping things. I already have all my wreath and porch pot greeneries ordered because you’ve got to order that in about August. So, I did that this month. Unfortunately, you can never really just be in the season that you’re in, you always have to be six months ahead of time at least, and that’s okay. It’s good, and now that I’m in year four, I know exactly what I’m looking at with that.

So, that is my update on what we did for the month of August. We pretty much just enjoyed the fruits of our labor/the blooms of our labor. All of the hard work really pays off. We really didn’t have to pull a lot of weeds or that kind of stuff. It was some planning and some sales, but for the most part, it was just kind of enjoying all the hard work that we’ve put into this season, to get to this point. It’s been good. It’s been really good. I mean, we did very few markets or extra sales. We just kind of picked flowers and made bouquets and it was pretty fun.

Additional Note from Liz: Hey, everyone! I want to talk quickly about my course that I’m launching this fall, Peddling Perishable Products. Essentially, if you like the episodes where I tell you how to grow the flowers, I really think you’re gonna like the episodes where I tell you how to sell the flowers. Ultimately, I tried creating some podcast episodes talking about how I do things, and it just felt incomplete, and I really want to make a difference. I want to make it easier on you, and I don’t want you to find out how to do things the hard way.

If you want more information on how to sell your flowers and turn them into a comprehensive business, go HERE and sign up for a Calendly call. I promise it’s not intimidating. It’s 15 minutes where I’m going to tell you the stats on my sales, and I’m going to ultimately give you information on the course. If, at the end of the phone call, the answer is no or not yet, I promise no hard feelings. I just really, really want to help you turn your flower hobby into a successful business if that’s what you want to do. Again, no hard feelings. Just sign up on the Calendly link. Thanks!

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