By Andrew Campbell
While we’ve covered a lot of farms that have big tractors or lots of animals, it certainly isn’t the only way to farm. For Janice and her family, a few acres can go a long way. Janice is a flower farmer, growing a rainbow of colourful gladiolus, zinnias, sunflowers and more. In her community, she has become a popular supplier for wedding bouquets, florist shops and even at farmers markets from the time the first flowers bloom in late March all the way to the end of November. And this burgeoning business is done on 4 acres in front of her family’s home. Come for a tour to find out that big isn’t the only way to farm, and that if you have a passion for growing and harvesting – you can make a go of a farm business!
Today we are with Janice and she is touring us around her beautiful flower farm – Harris Flower Farm. Thanks for having us.
You’re welcome. Thanks for coming.
How did you become a flower farmer?
I’ve always loved flowers and my dad was the president of the horticultural society and my grandma was in all the fall fairs. We have had very avid gardeners in my family and one spring, my mom suggested that I buy some gladiolus and grow them at the market. I don’t do anything small, so I started with 3000 gladiolas!
3000 flowers was your first crop?!
That summer went really well, so I roped my then boyfriend, now husband, into helping me with the flowers. Every summer we added more flower varieties. We added sunflowers and zinnias and anything that my grandma or my mom would let me pick from the garden, I sold!
Although there were definitely rules about what I could pick. Grandma’s rule was always that there had to be one more of everything in the garden. You couldn’t pick everything. We ended up buying grandma’s farm and now I just pick anything I want.
The whole yard is just full of all of those flowers!
In total, we grow about four acres of flowers.
Is this a family farm?
We have three little kids and they’re right with us gardening on the farm.
Do they always come out here and want to pick a flower for mom? Are they always picking flowers with you too?
All right. Into the flower beds now, is that what you call them? Do you still call them flower beds?
We are in a flower field.
That makes sense when you have so many. What flowers are we standing beside?
These are the zinnias and we grow a lot of zinnias for summer flowers because they definitely like the heat and they have such a variety of colors. They’re also something that florists don’t normally have because they’re not a flower that can be shipped well. They don’t have the vase life and they don’t like being cold.
How do you look after the flowers like this in a year? What are some of the jobs you do out here?
We start all of our flowers from seeds. We like to say that our farm is from seed to centerpiece. When we’re doing a wedding, the flowers that are in your wedding were started from seed in our greenhouse and then planted out in the field and weeded regularly. Once they start flowering, we’re picking them. Usually every two to three days we’re picking, but different flowers have different picking schedules. The sunflowers we pick every night. Zinnias we pick every two or three days. Each type of flower gets specific care in terms of harvesting and post harvest handling.
So you’re harvesting all the time. Planting is job one and then after that, it’s just harvest all summer long.
Yes, and still planting in between harvesting. We just planted our last sunflowers yesterday, so we will have them for the entire season. Our flower season is usually from the end of March until November.
I see you have a machine to help plant the flowers. How does the planter work?
We start the flower in trays in the greenhouse and use the planter when we are ready to transplant the flowers outside. It is a carousel type planter, so what they do is someone will sit on the seat and drop the plant into the carousel as it swirls around and it drops the plant into the soil. The transplanter also gives each plant some water to help it grow.
Oh, that’s what the tank is for. You fill it with water and water as you go.
We use it to give the flowers a fresh start right off the bat. These types of planters are normally meant for tomatoes and peppers, but we’ve modified it to plant sunflowers.
You mentioned you’re growing 20,000 sunflowers. You don’t want to do that all by hand!
No! I think it takes about five minutes to plant a row of the sunflowers with this machine. This is a great way to get a lot in quickly.
All right, over to the sunflowers. They don’t really look like sunflowers yet, but you say these are ready to pick already?
This is exactly how we want to pick them! We pick sunflowers every single night. You have to, otherwise, they will be in open bloom. When you buy sunflowers, you don’t want them to be totally out in bloom because then they’re not going to last as long in your home. We pick them when they are just opening so the customer will have them last as long as possible for them.
Really. So every single night, you pick sunflowers?
We grow about 20,000 sunflowers throughout the whole season and we pick every night until the end of our season when we get frost at night.
Wow. This has been so interesting. Thank you for the tour.
Watch Fresh Air Farmer Andrew Campbell’s full video here