How to Throw a Farmer-Florist Party

Farmers and Florists in Greenville, South Carolina, came together to celebrate local flowers for American Flowers Week 2016 (c) Angela Zion Photography
Farmers and Florists in Greenville, South Carolina, came together to celebrate local flowers for American Flowers Week 2016 (c) Angela Zion Photography

If you’re like me, planning for 2017 is top-of-mind these days. And it’s not too early to begin your American Flowers Week 2017 promotional prep!

Here’s some inspiration to get you started. I’ve been wanting to share the story of SC Upstate Flowers, a group of creative and motivated flower farmers who are staking a claim for Slow Flowers in their community. They planned a fun, festive, floral — and affordable — promotional event that was a huge success.

Meet Melissa Smith, Fraylick Farm (c) Angela Zion
Meet Melissa Smith, Fraylick Farm (c) Angela Zion

The goal? To use the occasion of American Flowers Week to introduce themselves and their beautiful, local blooms to their hometown florists.

Flower farmer and Slowflowers.com member Melissa Smith of Fraylick Farmknew that American Flowers Week 2016 (June 28-July 4) was coming up after reading about it in Slowflowers.com newsletters.

“I thought, ‘we need to do something with this — this is a good opportunity,’” she explained. The idea of a “Farmer-Florist Party” took on a life of its own when Suzie Bunn of Statice Floral offered to hold the party in her Greenville studio.

Gorgeous, natural light fills The Station, where florist Suzie Bunn and her business Statice Floral are based.
Gorgeous, natural light fills The Station, where florist Suzie Bunn and her business Statice Floral are based.

“The Station,” where Suzie’s design studio is housed, is actually an old gas station converted into a multi-artist commercial space. In addition to a printmaker, two photographers work here, including Angela Zion, who offered to capture the Farmer-Florist Party on film. She has generously shared some of those images with us here.

flower-party-2016-page-001The party took place on June 27, 2016, the day before American Flowers Week launched. “We had only been around since February and only a handful of florists knew about the group,” Melissa say. “I made an invitation with the American Flowers Week graphics and each SC Upstate Flowers member was designated to email or hand-deliver invitations to three or four members of the local florist community.”

Some of those invites were “cold calls,” but when the farmer arrived holding a sample bouquet, the introduction was easy. The message: Come and make an arrangement for yourself; enjoy a glass of wine on us; and play with beautiful, local, American grown floral products.

Lots to play with! (c) Angela Zion
Lots to play with! (c) Angela Zion

A stunning arrangement, created at the party (c) Angela Zion
A stunning arrangement, created at the party (c) Angela Zion

One more to share . . . a SC golden still-life (c) Angela Zion
One more to share . . . a SC golden still-life (c) Angela Zion

Member farmers brought an abundance of freshly-harvested botanicals to share. “We filled up the outer edges of the room we were in and spilled into the floral studio and printmaking area,” she says. “About half of the guests jumped in and made arrangements; some just gathered blooms to take home and later we saw their photos on Instagram. Most were just happy to have a chance to sit down and talk with others in the industry.”

Local florists gathered for friendship and flowers (food and wine, too!) (c) Angela Zion
Local florists gathered for friendship and flowers (food and wine, too!) (c) Angela Zion

Ed shows off his flower-adorned cowboy hat (c) Angela Zion
Ed shows off his flower-adorned cowboy hat (c) Angela Zion

As you can see from the photos, the flowers were indeed stunning and the faces of the farmers and their party guests – local florists – tell the rest of the story. Connections were made and solidified. “Event florists love what we’re doing – they want us to grow more,” Melissa says. “There are a ton of retail florists here in the area, which is the niche we’re still trying to break into, but we’ve made some headway and those are the ones we want to reach in the coming year.”

Sensory overload in a good way: Touch, smell, see local blooms (c) Angela Zion
Sensory overload in a good way: Touch, smell, see local blooms (c) Angela Zion

Take-home bouquets (c) Angela Zion
Take-home bouquets (c) Angela Zion

It made a huge impression on the florists to have a chance to design with the first local dahlias of the season, to experience full, multipetaled lisianthus unlike anything they’d ever seen before, and to learn about sourcing from farms in their area. The party was about creating relationships, and as we’ve heard time and again from others in the Slow Flowers Movement, that’s the basis for doing business.

“We wanted to get the message across about local and American-grown flowers,” Melissa explains. “It was about showing the florists all that’s different here than imported button mums and standard roses.”

Meet Julie Hill, Southern Wild Design (c) Angela Zion
Meet Julie Hill, Southern Wild Design (c) Angela Zion

Julie Hill of Southern Wild Design posted a wonderful story about the Farmer-Florist Party at her blog here. I love what she wrote:

“This amazingly, beautiful creation happened because a group of flower farmers and florists got together in celebration of American Flowers Week. But the evening turned out to be much more than that. It turned out to be a celebration of natural beauty, friends—old and new—and, most importantly, a celebration of community.” — Julie Hill

Lovely summer annuals (c) Angela Zion
Lovely summer annuals (c) Angela Zion

ABOUT SC UPSTATE FLOWERS
SC Upstate Flowers was formed in early 2016, a collective mix of younger farms and farms that have been in business for more than a decade.

Meet the SC Upstate Flowers team, from left: Erin Howe, Red Maple Flowers; Melissa Smith, Fraylick Farm; Kendra Schirmer, Laurel Creek Florals; Ashley Morris, Cultivated Creations; Ed Phillips, Field and Flower; and (in front) Julie Hill, Southern Wild Designs. Photo: (c) Suzie Bunn
Meet the SC Upstate Flowers team, from left: Erin Howe, Red Maple Flowers; Melissa Smith, Fraylick Farm; Kendra Schirmer, Laurel Creek Florals; Ashley Morris, Cultivated Creations; Ed Phillips, Field and Flower; and (in front) Julie Hill, Southern Wild Designs. Photo: (c) Suzie Bunn

Local flowers for Upstate South Carolina (c) Angela Zion
Local flowers for Upstate South Carolina (c) Angela Zion

I met flower farmer Melissa Smith and several others in the SC Upstate Flowers group a few months ago when they came to the Slow Flowers Meet-Up in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area.Their sense of collaboration and mutual respect for one another left me wanting to learn what’s working for them.

Melissa and her husband Josh own Fraylick Farm, based in Travelers Rest, S.C., about 10 miles north of Greenville, S.C., and 10 miles south of the S.C.-N.C. state line. “The state of South Carolina in general is getting a whole lot more flower-focused,” she told me in a phone interview.

When Melissa and Josh moved their farming operation to the Greenville area in October 2015, “I felt the need for community,” she says. “I started meeting people through the Flower Farmer group on Facebook and I knew there were at least five of us here – and I thought ‘that’s enough for a group.’”

With her “partner in crime” Julie Hill of Greenville-based Southern Wild Design, Melissa invited every flower farmer she knew of to a potluck dinner. “We ended up having eight and that’s where the idea for our group was born.”

Thanks to Melissa’s background in graphic design and computers, and since it was still early in the season, SC Upstate Flowers launched a simple web site in March 2016. A Facebook page and Instagram account, and the frequently-used hashtag #scupstateflowers, naturally followed. By the first weekend of April 2016, SC Upstate Flowers posted a wholesale availability/price list on its site and introduced itself by email to a list of florists in the area.

What a gorgeous palette of apricot-coral-pink hues (c) Angela Zion
What a gorgeous palette of apricot-coral-pink hues (c) Angela Zion

With Melissa taking the lead on wholesale communications to florists, Julie has stepped in to manage the consumer-facing promotions. Managing the two parallel strategies makes sense because of the diversified sales channels among the SC Upstate Flowers’ member farms (some are wholesale-only, like Fraylick Farm; others move a lot of product through local farmers’ markets).

The main consumer event of the season took place the first weekend in October: the SC Flower Throwdown. Held at the downtown Greenville Farmers’ Market, the “challenge” paired four local florists in teams with four flower farmers. Each team competed to design a hand-tied bouquet,  a large-scale arrangement, and a small installation piece. Local media personalities were tapped to judge the event and all the floral arrangements were donated to a local children’s hospital.

While the farmers’ market management was skeptical, the SC Upstate Flowers team knew that a lively competition with flowers would engage shoppers — and it did just that.

“We had a huge crowd,” Melissa says. The goal of introducing beautiful SC-grown flowers to market shoppers was achieved and SC Upstate Flowers is now planning to bring a “flower photo booth” to the market as a spring event to launch the season.

Find & follow SC Upstate Flowers at these social places:

SC Upstate Flowers on Facebook

SC Upstate Flowers on Instagram

Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is the founder of Slow Flowers and the author of several books.

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Slow Flowers Journal is brought to you by SlowFlowers.com. Slow Flowers is an award-winning online directory created to help consumers find florists, studio designers, wedding and event planners, supermarket flower departments and flower farmers that supply American grown flowers. Founded in 2014, the site has grown to 700 members across the U.S.

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For more information, please contact Debra Prinzing
at 206-769-8211 or 844-SLOWFLO (844-756-9356); debra(at)slowflowers.com.