Do your employees have rose experience or do you train them?
Garden roses require very specialized training whether it’s growing them or working with them post-harvest. Some of our employees come to us with farming our gardening experience, but for the most part we prefer to train new employees. There are certain ways we do things to ensure the roses are well kept both in the garden and post-harvest, so we actually like people to come to use like a “fresh slate” without a lot of knowledge of flowers so we can teach them correctly from the start. We have been working really hard this year to instill pride and ownership in our employees. Some of the things we are working on are giving them each a section of the farm to care for and roles specific to them so they can feel a sense of accomplishment at the farm.
What are some things you needed to learn in order to become a rose farmer?
Patience - Being patient is so important for every business. Gardening will test you and is frustrating, so learning to be patient is the most important thing I had to adapt to for our business. Roses bloom seasonally so waiting for them to bloom has really tested my ability to be patient. Clearly this is something I needed to work on long before we grew roses, so maybe this was the right calling for me to work on something that I lacked.
Flexibility - Mother Nature rules all, so do shipping carriers, haha. I have had to adjust my expectations and learn that not all things are in my control. Being flexible and knowing that things will “be as they will be” has been hard, but it’s a good lesson I needed to learn and accept. We try to control our environment as farmers and we do everything we can to ensure our packages get to people on time, but ultimately so much is out of our hands. All we can do is our best and then have faith.
Privacy - This doesn't so much have to do with rose farming, but more overall owning a business. I have had the tendency to let too many people in, including employees who hadn't yet proven their loyalty. I am the type of person who overly gives and trusts prematurely. I have had to learn to not be such an open book, to value myself enough to give myself privacy and know that it is ok to not tell everyone everything. Knowing when to let people into the inner workings of your business is a learned skill and I have only just started to understand that. I would have a lot of brokenhearted moments and feelings of betrayal if I had only loved myself enough to know it's ok to keep a lot of things private.
Where do you see the farm in 5-10 years?
I really am not sure and I think about this from time to time. I would love to say we will be retired in 10 years and enjoying the fruits of our labor and investment. But that would also make me sad because it would mean we would have sold our farm. I hope that by 10 years we have more time for ourselves and that our business is more self-sufficient. Right now we are very much hands on and we cannot leave the farm for pleasure. We put every cent we earn back into the farm and hopefully one day we will be sustainable enough that not everything we earn has to be invested back into the business. I would also love to be growing more roses, but with that comes more headaches, so maybe we will find a happy place somewhere between now and then that feels right personally, is financially sustainable and allows both Ryan and me to do the things we love both for the business and in our family life.
Income during the off season?
This is a tricky question because it’s an evolving issue. Before this year we typically had 5-6 months of dormancy, meaning no roses and no income. That means we had to earn ALL of our farm’s income in 6-7 months of the year, which by the way, is literally impossible. In the winter we would be forced to downsize our labor and overhead, but we would still need a lot of help readying the farm for spring. Farming is impossibly unfair since its a seasonal business and it’s been hands down the hardest aspect of our business. We have been working on secondary business models that are year-round so we don’t have a seasonal business. Those include sourcing roses from other boutique farms that have roses all year and growing our own rose bushes that we will offer to home gardeners in the coming years. The less we have to rely upon our outdoor roses for 6-7 months of the year the better. We also moved to a warmer climate in 2021 where we will have roses for 9 months of the year, which is will financially so much. Every winter would lose wonderful employees since we could not afford to keep them working when the roses aren't blooming. We invest a lot in training employees so to lose them every winter and hope they come back in spring wasn't ideal. A year-round business is the top of our priority list and something we hope 2022 will be for us!
How did you meet your husband?
We met on Match.com! We are introverts and online dating was ideal for us to meet. We met in NYC where we were both living and working! No offense, but I don’t think I would want to be in the dating scene anymore with Tinder and other apps. They just seem so superficial whereas Match.com asked for so much more info about people to match them. It was a successful match for us so kudos to match.com! There is a long story about Ryan's first private message to me on Match and our subsequent initial meeting. Ryan will tell you about it in an upcoming blog. Hint: I almost denied him a first date!