As I sit down to write this, we’ve just finished arranging five quart-sized and five pint-sized hand-tied bouquets that will go out for door-drop delivery tomorrow morning.
At Right Field Farm in Millersville, Maryland, it’s our second season focusing exclusively on weekly retail flower delivery, and we’ve come to love the routine.
We are able to sell the majority of the flowers we harvest, this way of farming fits with the rest of our lives, and the door-drop delivery is fully compatible with physical distancing that COVID-19 has forced on us all.
We like it when both the pints and the quarts look like someone has wandered through a prolific cottage garden and picked everything they can find. Our arrangements are bountiful and eclectic, which is what we plant for.
We sometimes send special offers out to the mailing list, and a couple times each season if we have a lot of something (I’m looking at you, heirloom narcissus) we’ll do a flash sale of twenty mass-arrangements in pints only.
We are careful not to plant too many flowers with short harvest windows, though harvesting is still the job that demands the most flexibility from our family. Peony harvest waits for no-one! Since the rows are all within a few hundred feet of the house, even flowers with a short harvest window can be checked on a couple times each day and brought into the cooler throughout the week – but our favorites can be harvested more flexibly.
Hellebores are, of course, the queen of the wide harvest window. We always cut them after seeds have set (they last longer for us this way), and we can do this for weeks during the spring, especially if the weather stays cool. Viburnum is a close second right now – some can be cut any time from when they’re tight and green through to when they’re wide, bright, white open. Azaleas (a new spring bloom for us) are in-between peonies and hellebores, as long as they’re cut within a day or two of the first blooms opening, they last for days in the vase.
Every Wednesday, we draft an email to send out to our mailing list of around 300 people – there are quite a few friends and family on the list who just like seeing our flowers in their inboxes, but it’s mostly customers who want flowers on their doorsteps. We schedule the email to send on Thursday morning, and ideally by Thursday afternoon we’re sold out for the week. We track all our inventory and orders using Shopify.
We don’t use a recipe from week to week, though each week there’s some consistency across orders. The pint arrangements are $50 each and might have as many as forty stems. The quart arrangements are $75 – a bit taller than the pint arrangements with up to sixty stems! Delivery is built into the price, and we only deliver locally.
Our teenagers help harvest during the week over the summer, into the cooler or into the cool basement, depending upon the blooms. On Saturday mornings we all harvest together, and arrangements go together on Saturday during the day. Sunday morning we deliver to ten or fifteen doorsteps, depending upon how harvest and selling has gone. Shopify has an app that lets us do fulfillment on the fly, so customers get an email right as the flowers are dropped off on their doorsteps.
Like most farm households in the U.S., our family depends on non-farm income, which means that we’ve needed to find ways to farm that don’t require full-time attention all season long. We experimented with selling flowers to florists and with doing event work, but it didn’t really gel for us because of other work and family obligations. This season, we felt like this channel really clicked, and it feels like lots of other growers could replicate it.
We only grow in the field – no greenhouses or high tunnels. We start most of our seeds ourselves – under lights and in cold frames. This year after reading Vegetables Love Flowers, we added in some veggies to the flower fields, which has already proven delightful. Our Sunday Delivery season lasts from mid-April to mid-October, and by the end we’re ready to take a rest and get ready for the holidays and focus on getting the farm and the Cool Flowers tucked in for the winter.
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